This week, the Armenian National Assembly failed for the second time to approve a bill to amend the country’s Electoral Code, which was proposed by the government of Nicol Pashinian.
After the first failed attempt, every effort was made to ensure that 63 yes votes were secured, to have the bill approved. However, during the second round of voting the bill fell one vote short of approval. Only 62 deputies voted for the bill, and, apparently, the planned or unplanned sabotage of the process has achieved its goal. For the first time since the revolution, the new authorities suffered a defeat.
Changing the electoral bill was one of the main demands of the April-May uprising of the Armenian people, right there with Serzh Sarksian’s resignation and holding of extraordinary elections. At the time the first demand was achieved with the resignation of the former prime minister. The issue of snap elections was finalized this week, when the Parliament “failed” to elect a new prime minister and elections are now set to take place on December 9th.
With the new bill, elections were to be held on proportional bases. Political parties and alliances were to be represented in the chambers based on the percentage of vote each one received. The minimum threshold for entering the parliament would have been lowered one percentage point. Political parties needed 4 percent, and the alliances 6 percent, to enter the Parliament. All these would have made the new parliament more representative, with at least four political forces represented in the National Assembly.
Now however, the elections will be held on the basis of a mixed system, where the voting public will not only choose their favorite party, but also their preferred candidate, whereby the votes for individual candidates will go to their party. This system was concocted by the former regime to guarantee their victory and they succeeded in it, through vote buying and manipulation.
Before and after the last elections, almost all parties expressed their opposition to this electoral system. Everyone complained that the elections were rigged and undemocratic. Now the conditions are changed, and the possibility of vote buying by the individual candidates is greatly diminished, yet “criminal” elements of the former regime have the resources and enough influence to pressure the electorate by other means, enabling some of them to once again enter the parliament.
With the defeat of new electoral bill, free elections are not jeopardized, but its fairness will be certainly questioned.