Karabakh Parliament Backs New Election Bill

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–The Nagorno-Karabakh parliament decided on Wednesday that legislative elections expected in June will be held under the existing first-pass-the-post system only–giving the republic’s authorities an additional edge in their drive to stay in power.

Karabakh lawmakers–mostly loyal to President Arkady Ghoukassian–gave preference to one of the two draft election laws that leaves no room for the system of proportional representation favored by opposition groups. They voted overwhelmingly to accept the bill authored by fellow deputy Karen Baburian as a "basis for further discussions." Baburian also works in Ghoukassian’s administration. An alternative bill submitted by the parliament committee on legal affairs would have allocated 11 seats in the next National Assembly under the proportional system and the remaining 22 seats in single-mandate constituencies. The committee is dominated by supporters of the former Karabakh army chief–General Samvel Babayan–Ghoukassian’s influential rival.

Several opposition parties supporting Babayan hoped to win more seats on the party-list basis. They also believe that a greater role played by local political parties will foster democratization in Karabakh. But the parliament leadership and other supporters of Ghoukassian counter that Karabakh parties are still too weak to be entrusted with governance.

It is expected that Ghoukassian will set the date of the polls after the new electoral law is adopted by the parliament.

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