Vote 2012: Opposition, government create dual – and dueling – monitoring staffs

Armenia has seen the establishment of what seem to be rival bodies that are to monitor the course of the upcoming parliamentary elections. One such body has been set up by forces opposed to the main ruling Republican Party of Armenia and the other one by RPA itself. Time will show whether they will help or hinder each other.

First, four political forces created joint headquarters with a view to holding free and fair elections. That body brought together the coalition member Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), the opposition Heritage and Dashnaktsutyun party as well as the opposition Armenian National Congress alliance.

Deputy chairman of the Republican Party Galust Sahakyan refused to sign his party’s agreement on the grounds that he considered the refusal to invite to the Orinats Yerkir Party to the headquarters as an insult. He said that he had the impression that the political forces were creating a provisional government.

The accession to the essentially oppositional headquarters by PAP became a surprise. Even despite the fact that ex-Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who is currently number two on the PAP’s list of candidates in the May 6 parliamentary elections, expressed his desire to see the RPA joining the headquarters, it appears that PAP was trying to demonstrate its being opposition and to dissociate itself from the governing coalition.

ANC coordinator Levon Zurabyan said afterwards: “We are ready to take any step to eradicate the evil, the author of which is the regime of Serzh Sargsyan.”

The ruling Republican Party took that initiative as a hostile step and stated that several weeks ago Parliament Speaker Samvel Nikoyan made an initiative on the formation of a single staff affiliated with the National Assembly. “I think it makes no sense to build two headquarters with functions duplicating each other, something that require a lot of time, effort and resources that we lack,” said Sahakyan.

As a result, a public advisory body was set up the next day by the National Assembly. The new body is to oversee the elections and will also deal with monitoring the implementation of the Electoral Code and respond to alerts about possible violations.

And the head of the parliamentary committee on state and legal affairs, Republican MP David Harutyunyan made a fervent appeal to other political forces to join the Republican Party’s initiative and the set of rules for the conduct of fair elections worked out by the governing party.

“Let’s at least once do it differently. Let’s stand shoulder to shoulder and conduct good elections... Let’s agree and do everything together,” Harutyunyan said in his appeal.

An intriguing situation has emerged, as on the one side of the barricades there is the Republican Party, which is already now trying to disown some violations, in particular, those connected with the unexpectedly announced increase in the number of eligible voters, and on the other – the other main political forces that are actively engaged in discovering violations.

Opposition members say that if they manage to prevent the use of administrative resources by the Republican Party at the elections, then the current ruling party will not win a majority in the next National Assembly. Some analysts already now tip Oskanian, who joined the PAP only in February, as the speaker of the next legislature, which reflects expectations of a strong performance by the PAP, which is largely associated with ex-president Robert Kocharyan, in the May 6 general elections.