YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian on Thursday formally scheduled Armenia’s next parliamentary elections for April 2, 2017.
A presidential decree publicized by Sarkisian’s press office said the date was set in accordance with the country’s new Electoral Code adopted this summer.
The elections will take place one year before Sarkisian serves out his second and final term and Armenia completes its transition to the parliamentary system of government in line with a controversial constitutional reform enacted a year ago. They will thus determine who will govern the country after April 2018.
The National Assembly to be elected in April will also choose Armenia’s next, largely ceremonial president.
Senior representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) headed by Sarkisian have indicated the HHK expects to retain control over the parliament. The HHK capitalized on its government levers and resources to win the last legislative polls marred by opposition allegations of vote rigging.
Sarkisian has still not clarified whether he would like to stay in power as prime minister. So far he has said only that the Armenian authorities will do their best to ensure that the vote meets democratic standards.
In September, the authorities and three major opposition parties reached a landmark agreement aimed at minimizing serious fraud in the upcoming elections. It led to the passage of major anti-fraud amendments to the Electoral Code.
Both the United States and the European Union have hailed landmark agreement, promising to provide millions of dollars in funding for its implementation. But echoing statements by Armenian opposition leaders, they have cautioned that the amendments alone do not guarantee the freedom and fairness of the vote. “It is a matter of political will,” the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said on November 28.