Former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) has expressed readiness to negotiate with Armenia’s new government on fresh parliamentary elections sought by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his political allies.
“At the moment we see no hurdle to pre-term elections,” Davit Harutiunian, a senior HHK member, said late on Thursday after a meeting of the governing board of the party which still controls the majority of seats in the Armenian parliament. “There are no taboo issues for us.”
Harutiunian stressed that an agreement on the date and other practical modalities of such a vote must result from negotiations involving all political forces represented in the National Assembly. “As of now we have received no proposals to participate in such discussions,” he told journalists. “But we are expressing our readiness [to take part in them.]”
Pashinian demanded the holding of general elections before the end of this year immediately after he swept to power on May 8 in a wave of mass protests that forced Sarkisian to resign as prime minister. He is backed on the issue by his Yelk alliance and the two other parliamentary minority factions representing businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s bloc and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
Senior HHK figures have until now spoken out against the idea of snap polls. Harutiunian’s remarks suggest that the former ruling party has softened its stance. Some observers attribute this apparent change to fears that more deputies will defect from its parliament faction and cause the HHK to lose its slim majority in the legislature.
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, denied that, however, saying that he and other party representatives had not “categorically” ruled out fresh elections.“We remain of the opinion that the issue of urgent pre-term elections is not on our agenda right now,” he said. “It is not on Pashinian’s political agenda either.”
Sharmazanov added that while elections are extremely unlikely in the next three months “nobody can say what will happen six or seven months later.”
Harutiunian made clear on Thursday that the HHK is also ready to discuss major amendments to the Armenian Electoral Code demanded by Pashinian’s political team. He said the party specifically supports the idea of enacting more legal safeguards against fraudulent multiple voting.
Still, Harutiunian said the HHK remains opposed to changing a complicated and controversial system of electing the National Assembly. It is believed to have contributed to the HHK’s victory in the last legislative polls held in April 2017.
Yelk, Tsarukian and Dashnaktsutyun want to change that system so that Armenians vote only for political parties or blocs, rather than their individual candidates, in the next elections.