Election Code Initiative: Restoring “against all” as a safeguard to crisis?

Election Code Initiative:  Restoring “against all” as a safeguard to crisis?


A civil initiative is being formed currently in Armenia to re-introduce an “against all” choice section into the Election Code.

And it is important to have it done by the presidential elections to be held next year, as it is in that process that the section might play an important role and, as initiators believe, nullify post-election passions and tensions.

Victor Solakhyan

The idea was voiced by one of the creators of the initiative group, sociologist Victor Solakhyan, during the February 15 hearings in the parliament on changes in the Election Code.

“First of all, absence of this choice [on ballots] deprives a considerable share of Armenian citizens of the suffrage consolidated in the Constitution of Armenia, that is to say the right to express their attitude towards the nominated candidates,” says Solakhyan.

Moreover, he believes that by restoring that section it would be possible to actually prevent potential dramatic events during the post-election year. “The authorities should learn lessons from past mistakes, in order to avoid repetition of March events of 2008,” he says.

What can possibly be the connection between “against all” choice and the outbursts of violence on March 1, 2008?

“It might seem that this section is important only from a psychological viewpoint, and that it has no effect on the election results, however it is true only in case of proportionate parliamentary election. In all other cases – presidential, mayoral, local government elections – the presence of this section on the ballot in the first round might have a big impact on the election outcome and the voting processes,” Solakhyan explains.

In order to prove it he suggests a retrospective glance at the previous presidential election accompanied by the deadly post-election clashes.

The results of the first round distributed votes among the nine candidates as follows: Serzh Sargsyan – 862,000 (52.8%), Levon Ter-Petrosyan – 351,000(21.5%), Artur Baghdasaryan – 272,000 (16.7%) and further down came Vahan Hovhanissyan, Vazgen Manukyan, Tigran Karapetyan, etc.

“Everybody was quite aware that the candidate of the ruling authorities had received less than 50 percent of votes rather than the shown 52.8, and it was this knowledge that made people rally and demand a runoff. Of course, it’s another issue that during the days-long demonstrations Ter-Petrosyan successfully stirred up people’s outrage ‘adjusting’ it to his own interests and cultivate into people’s mind that those votes had been stolen only from him. As a consequence, we had the March events,” he says.

What would things look like if the “against all” was on the ballots?

“It's obvious that part of those who did not take part in the voting would have made use of that possibility [to vote “against all”], and a runoff would have been held.” And then, the expert says, Sargsyan's victory would have been unquestionable.

“In the runoff Sargsyan and Ter-Petrossyan would have received their votes from the first round, plus part of the votes given to the other candidates; the latter would have, most probably, been divided approximately half-and-half. A considerable part of those voters would not have turned up at all, as no country has “against all” on the ballots during a runoff,” explains the expert.

So far some twenty politicians and publicists of Armenia have given signatures of support to the initiative.