First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoyan again declined to say on Friday just when Armenia’s new government hopes to hold early parliamentary elections seen as vital for its political future.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called for such elections immediately after he swept to power in a wave of mass protests in May. He said that they could be held before the end of this year. However, his government’s policy program approved by the Armenian parliament last month says that the polls should take place within a year at the latest.
Mirzoyan cited that program after meeting with members of an ad hoc parliamentary group trying to draft major amendments to the Electoral Code. At that meeting, a member of the group, Sergey Bagratian, wondered when the elections could realistically be held if the code is amended in September.
“We need to look, discuss that together,” the vice-premier replied vaguely. “It’s not that the government has a position and is trying to impose it on political forces.”
Pashinian’s Yelk alliance and the two other parliamentary forces represented in the government, the Tsarukian Bloc and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), together control less than half of the seats in the current National Assembly. Former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) still has the largest faction there even after losing its parliamentary majority last month following a series of defections.
Changes to Armenian electoral legislation are now being drafted by not only by lawmakers but also a separate government task force headed by Mirzoyan. The latter expressed hope that they will reach a consensus. “Ideally, we should have a single draft agreed with everyone,” he said.
Yelk, the Tsarukian Bloc and Dashnaktsutyun broadly agree on what kind of changes should be made in the Electoral Code. In particular, they want to ensure that Armenians vote only for parties and blocs, rather than their individual candidates running in nationwide constituencies. They say that the HHK unfairly benefited from the existing electoral system in last year’s general elections.
The former ruling party remains opposed to the abolition of individual electoral races.