The National Assembly on Tuesday approved in the second reading a set of legal amendments which its pro-government majority says will facilitate the proper conduct of the next Armenian elections. Armenia’s leading opposition groups dismiss the amendments as insignificant, however. They have also denounced the parliament majority for rejecting virtually all major proposals made by them.
The latest changes in the Electoral Code stem from sweeping political reforms that have been promised by the Armenian authorities to the Council of Europe. The Strasbourg-based organization’s Venice Commission, which monitors legal reforms in Council of Europe member states, has made a largely positive assessment of them.
The most important of the amendments passed by a vote of 76 to 12 relates to the formation of various-level election commissions. Until now, the president of the republic, a high court and the political forces represented in the parliament have each appointed one member of those commissions.
Under the amended code, from now on this mostly partisan mechanism will only apply to precinct-level commissions. The Central Election Commission and a dozen commissions running national electoral districts will be formed by Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, the Court of Appeals and the national bar association. President Serzh Sarkisian will have to endorse commission members nominated by them.
Davit Harutiunian, the chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs and the main author of the bill, insisted that this mechanism will make the top electoral bodies more independent and less partisan. Opposition lawmakers disagreed, saying that Sarkisian and his political allies will continue to control the election commissions.