Armenia’s government and four leading political groups have reached agreement on one of the key amendments to the Electoral Code which could be enacted ahead of snap general elections expected in the country, a government representative said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian pledged to force such elections within a year shortly after coming to power in May. A reform of the existing electoral system is widely regarded as essential for ensuring the freedom and fairness of the vote.
Pashinian’s government and the four parliamentary forces formed in June separate working groups tasked with drafting amendments to the Electoral Code. Those essentially revolve around a new mechanism for distributing parliament seats and further safeguards against multiple voting and other types of fraud.
In the last parliamentary elections held in April 2017, Armenians voted for not only parties and blocs as a whole but also their individual candidates running in a dozen nationwide constituencies. The individual races greatly helped the Republican Party (HHK) of then President Serzh Sarkisian win the vote.
Wealthy HHK candidates relied heavily on their financial resources and government connections to earn both themselves and their party many votes. Not surprisingly, the HHK has until now resisted the scrapping of this system sought by the other Armenian factions as well as the new government.
Daniel Ioannisian, a member of the government’s working group, said that all four parliamentary factions, including the HHK, now agree on the need to abolish the constituencies.
Still, Ioannisian cautioned that two of them, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance, have proposed an alternative system whereby voters would still be able to pick individual candidates of parties or blocs. That would be done on a national, not regional, basis.
“That is not feasible,” Ioannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). It would not only complicate the work of electoral commissions but also preserve all the “risks” associated with the existing system of selecting individual candidates, he said.
According to Ioannisian, the government insists on holding the fresh elections on a purely party-list basis.
The National Assembly is due to start debating amendments to the Electoral Code in September. The Yelk alliance, of which Pashinian is a leader, holds only 9 seats in the 105-member parliament.