The need to amend the Electoral Code, which leaves wide loopholes for abuse by whoever is in power, was articulated as a public demand during the 2018 revolution and was restated after the 2018 snap election. The promise and commitment for reform was also stipulated in the Government Program, in the Judicial Reform Strategy and the roadmap published by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on November 18, 2020.
For about two years, several members of the Armenian National Assembly, extra-parliamentary parties, civil society representatives, international organizations and various state institutions discussed the necessity for amendments to the Electoral Code and related legislation. The draft developed as a result of these discussions addresses almost all problematic issues in the electoral legislation. The draft has been officially circulated and published on the website of the National Assembly, and sent to the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR for an expert opinion.
The draft amendments to the Electoral Code propose a simple proportional electoral system that should help improve and make the parliamentary system more meaningful, as well as prevent vote buying operations and criminal influence on elections. The switch to a simple proportional system was supported in 2018 by all the political parties currently represented in Parliament. This electoral system was also the main concept that was anticipated in the context of electoral reforms and was approved by the extra-parliamentary parties.
The adoption of the Electoral Code and related legislation is the important step through which all factions in the National Assembly can demonstrate that, during the electoral campaign, they will renounce:
- The misuse of administrative resources that have been defined and specified in the amendments, with their respective criminal and administrative liability,
- Illegal funding of the electoral campaign, which is regulated more effectively in the draft in terms of accountability and transparency,
- Vote-buying through charity and other concealed means, the provisions for which have been revised and improved, including through requiring declarations from third parties,
- Forcing participation at gatherings and particularly at campaign rallies, which would be subject to criminal liability,
- The under-representation of women, to overcome which the draft introduces new effective mechanisms,
- The overcentralization of power, which is challenged by lowering the electoral deposit and threshold for political parties, removal of restrictions for forming a governing coalition and a full revision of the distribution of additional mandates,
- Unfair competition and personified, apolitical activity, to overcome which the draft proposes mandatory the submission of campaign programs, an increase in the number of debates and free air time, and a focus on the general policy of the political party.
The main guarantee for overcoming the current political crisis is to hold an early parliamentary election. Yet, elections held under the existing discredited and obviously flawed Electoral Code will, in and of itself, be a competition of resources and not platforms and will cast the legitimacy and reputation of the new National Assembly into doubt.
The political majority of the National Assembly is ultimately responsible for the adoption and enforcement of the amendments to the Electoral Code. At the same time, a lack of support for the amendments by the opposition factions and other parties seeking power will be seen as an intention to rely on administrative and unlawful resources, and a lack of commitment to overcome the current political crisis.
Early elections should be scheduled only after the adoption of the amendments to the Electoral Code within the shortest period of time, without subordinating the imperative for early elections to the general international rules about timelines.
Transparency International Anticorruption Center
Union of Informed Citizens
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor
Human Rights Research Center
For Equal Rights Educational Center NGO
Centre for Community Mobilization and Support NGO
“Pink” human rights defender NGO
Media initiatives Center
Public Journalism Club
Helsinki Association for Human Rights
Non-Discrimination and Equality Coalition
Journalists’ Club “Asparez” NGO
“Restart” Scientific-Educational Foundation
Law development and protection foundation
Political Dialogue NGO
Women’s Rights House
Seda Grigoryan, documentary filmmaker