Armenia’s prime minister and parliament set up on Wednesday separate working groups tasked with drafting amendments to the Electoral Code before anticipated fresh parliamentary elections.
The commission formed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian will be headed by his first deputy, Ararat Mirzoyan, and comprise other senior government officials, the chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) and civil society representatives.
One of those civic activists, Daniel Ioannisian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the commission will publicize its first draft amendments to the code as early as next week after discussing them with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. Ioannisian said he and several government officials will travel to Venice for that purpose on Sunday.
Ioannisian said the ad hoc body will essentially propose additional legal safeguards against multiple voting and a change of the existing mechanism for electing the National Assembly. It will seek to ensure that Armenians vote only for parties or blocs, rather than their individual candidates running in nationwide constituencies.
This change of the electoral system is supported by virtually all political groups except the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The latter is thought to have strongly benefited from the existing system in the last elections held in April 2017.
Shortly after Pashinian’s executive order, the four political forces represented in the Armenian parliament issued a joint statement saying that they have formed a separate task force that will also work on a reform of the electoral legislation. Each of them appointed three members of the working group. They expressed readiness to cooperate with the government commission.
The policy program of Pashinian’s cabinet approved by the National Assembly earlier this month calls for the conduct of pre-term general elections within one year. The premier has made no secret of his desire to hold them this fall. Leaders of the parliamentary forces have been more vague on possible election dates.
Senior representatives of the HHK, which has the largest group in the current parliament, spoke out against snap polls until this month. But the former ruling party indicated three weeks ago that it is ready to embrace the idea in principle.