Armenian Government, Opposition reach new election deal

By Asbarez | Monday, 12 September 2016

Armenian government and opposition leaders discuss elections during a June meeting

Armenian government and opposition leaders discuss elections during a June meeting

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia’s government and parliamentary opposition have reached a new, tentative agreement to ensure the freedom and fairness of next year’s general elections through a set of legal safeguards against fraud.

A senior opposition figure said over the weekend that the deal, if implemented, will “substantially” reduce possibilities of vote irregularities.

The two sides already cut such a deal in June, with the Armenian parliament passing corresponding amendments to the country’s Electoral Code. It called, among other things, for the introduction of a biometric national registry of voters that would supposedly prevent multiple voting by government loyalists.

That agreement collapsed last month after the government said a Polish manufacturer of electronic voter registration machines contracted by it will not be able to deliver them in time for the elections due in April 2017.

Opposition parties responded by proposing an alternative arrangement that would commit the authorities to taking other anti-fraud measures. They singled out the publication of lists of those voters who will have cast ballots on polling day.

Armenian opposition and civil society groups have long been saying that such a measure would preclude multiple fraudulent voting. The government opposed it until recently.

President Serzh Sarkisian expressed hope that the new election-related accord will be concluded “in the next two or three days” as he present his choice of Armenia’s next prime minister, Karen Karapetian, to the HHK leadership on Friday. He said the impending deal testifies to his administration’s commitment to major political and economic reforms.

The parliamentary elections will be held one year before Armenia’s completes its transition to a parliamentary system of government and Sarkisian serves out his final presidential term. They will therefore determine who will govern the country after 2017.