Looking For Consensus: Government, opposition still divided over electoral bill

Photo: Nazik Armenakyan/ArmeniaNow.com

Armenian parliamentary forces continued to discuss the draft electoral code that was passed in the first reading late last month amid claims by the opposition about lack of consensus. Representatives of the authorities, meanwhile, assured the opposition that discussions could also proceed between the second and third reading votes based on opposition proposals to achieve consensus.

Meanwhile, according to the chief of government staff, Minister David Harutyunyan, the electoral bill must be adopted by June 1, which is the requirement of the Constitution.

However, the opposition continues to insist that a number of its demenads be met in the new electoral law.

Leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress faction Levon Zurabyan says the way it stands now there is no consensus on the matter that was called for by the OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.

According to Zurabyan, of concern is also the timeframe of the reforms, as he believes such drastic changes are difficult to be embraced by society within just one year.

“I met with Council of Europe experts who participated in the process of drafting electoral laws in a dozen European countries. And they told me they had read five times our code and understood nothing. It is clear that ordinary people will understand even less. And it will not contribute to increasing trust towards elections,” said Zurabyan, suggesting passing the Code, but applying it from 2022 “so that political forces manage to adapt to it.”

He said that the ANC will vote against the draft code.

Meanwhile, Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov believes that the government and the opposition are moving towards a consensus on the issue of the Electoral Code.

“Last week, discussions were held almost every day late into night. The chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee and the chief of government staff discussed the issues with pro-government and opposition lawmakers. And we see that there is progress,” he said, acknowledging that on a number of issues the parties have not yet come to terms, but said they need to continue a search for consensus until June 1.

Opposition Prosperous Armenia party and faction leader Naira Zohrabyan thinks it is possible to assert any opposition demand, but even if they are accepted, elections will not be fair if the country’s political leadership does not have the necessary political will.

A number of non-governmental organizations, whose representatives participated earlier in the electoral code discussions in the 4+4+4 format on Monday issued a statement in which they described the draft unacceptable.