ARF and Heritage Propose Election Law Change

ARF's Armen Rustamyan

YEREVAN (ARF Press Service)—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia and the Heritage Party Executive Committee issued a joint announcement Tuesday proposing the removal of the single-seat constituency component for parliamentary elections and adopting a 100-percent proportional representation system.

The current law distributes 90 of the 131 parliament seats on the proportional (party) system, while the remaining 40 parliament members are elected through single-seat constituency.

The two parties said the joint announcement was the culmination of collaboration between the two parliamentary opposition forces on election reform that started in 2008.

The two parties are proposing the change after assessing the importance of the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 2012 and the need to expand the political parties’ responsibility in the elections process.

The two parties insist that the extension of the proportional representation to the entire parliament will create safeguards against voter fraud. The two parties insist that in a proportional system voter intimidation and vote buying would be curtailed, contending that currently the majority of the single-mandate seats are held by wealthy pro-government individuals.

The statement said that if the government accepts this demand then it will demonstrate that it is serious in its pledge to ensure proper electoral conduct, as it has voiced on numerous occasions.

At a press conference Wednesday, ARF leader Armen Rustamyan said the ball was in the government’s court, explaining that the authorities stand to benefit if the current system remains.

He added that the single-seat mandate is the government’s way of isolating the opposition from the parliament and gives the authorities an uneven advantage in the electoral process.

A rejection by the authorities of the opposition proposal, Rustamyan said, would demonstrate that the current leadership does not want reform and would like to ensure its continued hold on the country through voter manipulation.

He explained that a government rejection would isolate the authorities from the rest of the country.

The two parties called on forces within and outside of parliament to support this initiative.

The Armenian National Congress welcomed the effort calling it an “important and necessary step toward ensuring the legitimacy and transparency of the elections,” reported RFE/RL. “The Congress is ready to cooperate on this issue with all political forces.”

RFE/RL also reported that Naira Zuhrabian, a representative of the government coalition partner Prosperous Armenia Party said her party supports the opposition demand in principle but believes that the switch to a 100 percent party-list system should be gradual.

Meanwhile, Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker and the spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, dismissed the opposition arguments and insisted that the single-mandate districts are particularly important for voters living outside Yerevan. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, he argued that most Armenian parties have few members and structures outside the capital.

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