On March 18, 2020 the Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made an announcement on holding elections on June 20 as agreed with the opposition factions of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, discussions were unfolding in the political field whether the authorities would hold snap elections under the Electoral Code adopted in 2016 or the new Electoral Code being circulated, which implies a transition from the rating system to the usual proportional electoral system.
Although no consensus was reached between the factions represented in the National Assembly, the Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that the ruling party had decided to hold the elections under a closed proportional system.
According to a social survey conducted on behalf of the International Republican Institute months ago, Armenians overwhelmingly prefer the government to eliminate the rating system. The same demand has been voiced in numerous statements by civil society since March 2016.
The Union of Informed Citizens has studied the past and present views of the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary forces on the proposed changes.
Civil Contract Party
Civil Contract party promised during the revolution to hold snap elections in 2018 under the new Electoral Code. In addition, the second clause of the government program presented by Nikol Pashinyan as a Prime Minister referred to the snap parliamentary elections, particularly specifying that amendments should be made to the Code to switch from the rating system to a all-proportional electoral system.
The bill was presented to the Parliament twice in October 2018 but was aborted by the National Assembly on October 22 and 29.
On November 18, 2020 Nikol Pashinyan introduced a “road map” including a clause on the amendment to the Electoral Code. The bill was circulated in February providing, among others, for a transition to a simple proportional electoral system.
Before the elections to be held on June 20, 2021 Prime Minister Pashinyan announced, “Taking into account government’s earlier commitments, it has been decided that simple changes to the Electoral Code are needed to hold the elections under proportional electoral system, i.e. without the rating system.”
Prosperous Armenia Party
PAP took the initiative to eliminate the rating system at the national elections in February 2018. The Party was strictly opposed to the rating system during the discussion of the bill “On Making Amendments and Additions to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia” before the 2018 snap elections. The bill also provided for the amendment in the electoral system which the PAP voted in favor with all its members (including Gagik Tsarukyan who is often absent from the sittings).
As for the amendments to the Electoral Code being discussed before the elections on 20 June 2021, PAP has not expressed a clear stance. “What is essential to us is for the upcoming parliamentary elections to be free and fair, excluding the use of administrative resources by the government. We will run in the elections under whichever electoral system voted for by the majority of the parliament,” said Naira Zohrabyan, member of the faction, at the parliament on March 26.
Bright Armenia Party
In March 2016, Bright Armenia joined the united demands of civil society to eliminate the rating system from the draft Electoral Code and establish a usual proportional electoral system.
On May 25, 2018 during the briefings in the National Assembly, the leader of Bright Armenia party Edmon Marukyan stated that their “number 1” priority for the amendments to the Electoral Code was the elimination of the rating system. On October 22, 2018 at the extraordinary sitting of the National Assembly, Marukyan stated that the rating system had been “targeted” by him and his party years ago. “Now we have a chance to eliminate the rating system,” he said. All the deputies represented in the parliament at the time voted in favor of the amendment.
In the context of the present discussions on the amendment to the Electoral Code, BAP has again targeted the rating system this time being against its elimination. “The people will go to the polling stations to elect a party for its leader, but deputies who are not elected by the people will be elected to the parliament,” said Marukyan reflecting the change of his team’s point of view regarding the rating system.
Republican Party of Armenia
Before the 2018 snap elections, when the amendments to the Electoral Code were being discussed in the National Assembly, the RPA was opposed to the changes, including the elimination of the rating system. It was the RPA that prevented the elimination of the rating system in October 2018.
In 2021, the Republican Party has not expressed its stance at the party level. However, the party’s former MP Arpine Hovhannisyan spoke against the adoption of a new Electoral Code and elimination of the rating system right before elections.
Armenian Revolutionary Federation
Dashnaktsutyun has always been against the amendments to the Electoral Code, in particular, the rating electoral system, even when forming a coalition with the RPA which was for the rating electoral system.
On October 22, 2018 during the discussion of the amendment at the extraordinary sitting of the National Assembly, ARF MP Armenuhi Kyureghyan stated that ARF has always been for elimination of the district rating system, but is also for an all-proportional open system.
In 2018, ARF member Armen Rustamyan stated that the rating system was not democratic. During the voting on the Code, all the ARF members present at the sitting voted in favor of eliminating it and switching to the usual proportional electoral system. The ARF did not express a concrete opinion on the amendments to the Electoral Code before the elections to be held on 20 June 2021. However, according to the press only ARF is for the proportional representation.
Armenian National Congress
Since 2016, the ANC has been the most active force in the fight against the introduction of the rating system. It was the ANC that initiated the “4 + 4 + 4” format negotiations, during which the first of the 5 demands of the opposition and the civil society was the eliminating the rating system.
Although ANC refused to participate in 2018 elections, it expressed its concern about keeping the rating system.
On March 18, 2021 ANC issued a statement that the proposed solution to the political crisis would provoke new political crises unless the Electoral Code is amended. The party first of all opposes the rating system.
Heritage party, one of the extra-parliamentary forces, has always been in favor of the transition to an all-proportional electoral system. Back in 2012, Heritage party along with ARF proposed to conduct a referendum for the issue. It was convinced that main electoral falsifications were channeled through majoritarian system. Heritage is still in favor of the amendments to the Electoral Code. According to Heritage party leader Narine Dilbaryan, it is beyond any doubt that the Electoral Code should be changed. “We believe that a closed proportional list will be effective for holding more ideological elections,” she said.
Citizen’s Decision Party
CD was principally against the rating system before the 2018 parliamentary elections.
Citizen’s Decision party issued a statement on March 22, 2021 that the adoption of the new Electoral Code may be the minimum requirement to have relatively fair political elections. Gor Hakobyan, the secretary of the party’s Supreme Body, also stated that the elections should be held under proportional system.
National-democratic Pole / Sasna Tsrer
Varuzhan Avetisyan, the leader of the Sasna Tsrer Pan-Armenian Party who led the electoral list during 2018 snap elections spoke against the rating system.
At the public discussion “Snap elections: the Imperative of Amending the Electoral Code” on March 20, 2021 it was announced on behalf of the National-democratic Pole that the rating system should have been eliminated long ago, as it “corrupts the electoral process.”
For the Republic Party
The party led by independent MP Arman Babajanyan welcomed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s March 18 statement on holding snap elections. However, the party also insisted that the key prerequisite to ensuring the true expression of the will of RA citizens is holding elections under a reformed electoral system.
At the public discussion “Snap elections: the Imperative of Amending the Electoral Code” on March 20, 2021 the representative of the For the Republic party stated that “the rating system should be eliminated” as it “contains loops for political corruption.”
Fair Armenia Party
Fair Armenia is also in favor of adopting a new Electoral Code. According to the party, “the core of the current Electoral Code (constitutional law) of RA constitutes a disguised majoritarian system, which lays favorable grounds for cycles with criminal tendencies, dubious reputation, and huge financial resources, which can be used to influence the final outcome of the election.”
Christian-Democratic party, which intends to run in the snap parliamentary elections in 2021, also speaks against the rating system. Party leader Levon Shirinyan stated that rating system revives the former criminal-oligarchic regime․ “We must cut the umbilical cord of the past, get rid of the manners typical of the kleptocratic times. The revolution must continue and deepen.”
Lusine Voskanyan and Nelli Lazaryan
Union of Informed Citizens