A senior representative of Gagik Tsarukian’s political alliance said on Thursday that it will push for major amendments to the Electoral Code that would change the existing system of electing Armenia’s parliament.
The complicated system of proportional representation was used in the recent parliamentary elections won by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Armenians voted not only for parties or blocs but also individual candidates fielded by them in constituencies across the country.
Critics believe that the HHK is the main beneficiary of this mechanism, having nominated many wealthy and government-linked candidates who did well. Those individual candidates are widely regarded as the driving force behind widespread vote buying that marred the April 2 elections.
“This electoral system has demonstrated its absolutely apolitical character,” said Naira Zohrabian of the Tsarukian Bloc, which finished second in the polls. She called it a breeding ground for vote bribes.
“We will propose a revision of the [individual] rating system in the Electoral Code,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
In Zohrabian’s words, the Tsarukian Bloc will likely draft corresponding amendments to the code at the autumn session of the National Assembly. The lawmaker claimed that leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the HHK’s coalition partner, also have “very serious concerns regarding the rating system.”
The system was publicly called into question by Piotr Switalski, head of the European Union Delegation in Yerevan, earlier in the day. Switalski also said that Armenia’s government-controlled Central Election Commission (CEC) should be expanded to include civil society representatives. The CEC lacks “credibility” at present, he said.
Switalski’s remarks provoked stern rebukes from Justice Minister Davit Harutiunian and the HHK leadership. They accused him of meddling in Armenia’s internal affairs.
“We accept that our EU partners can make proposals and give assessments,” said Eduard Sharmazanov, the ruling party’s spokesman. “But they had better make those proposals with more correct and diplomatic language. Sometimes people forget that Armenia is a sovereign country.”
By contrast, Zohrabian defended the EU envoy. “I find very important Ambassador Piotr Switalski’s work on preventing corruption and establishing a democratic electoral system in our country,” she said. “I see a position of a concerned ambassador.”