On April 1, 2021, the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia passed into law the simple proportional model of electing Members of Parliament, eliminating the district candidate component. Political parties and civil society organizations have been advocating for this change for years, which is in conformance with the 2015 Constitution and has already been rolled out at the municipal election level.
This specific component was extracted from a larger package of electoral reforms and passed ahead of the other proposals. The approach is justified by the need to provide certainty regarding the early parliamentary election, which has been announced for June 20, 2021 and will use the simple proportional model. Again, this specific change has been examined for years and endorsed by a wide array of political actors, international experts and citizen groups.
It is foreseen that this change will contribute to a healthier competitive environment, conducive to the stabilization and development of the political party system in Armenia, lifting impediments to the free expression of voters’ will regarding their preferred political ideologies and campaign platforms. The elimination of the district candidate component will shield voters from a semi-feudal system of local oligarchs and criminal organizations that used district candidate poll results to pressure voters and cast the secrecy of the ballot into doubt.
In this context, we underscore the importance of having the bill signed by the President without delay.
At the same time, we must reiterate that the remaining electoral reform package cannot be left to expire with the seventh convocation of the National Assembly. The process needs to be seen through to completion, including the imposing of administrative and criminal liability for violations, restricting the abuse of administrative resources, closing loopholes for illegal financing of campaigns, increasing the transparency and accountability required in financial reporting, securing the inclusion of women, preventing intimidation tactics used to force participation at rallies, requiring the publishing of campaign platforms, supporting the holding of debates, reducing the electoral deposit, lowering the minimum electoral threshold for political parties (so as to give newly-formed parties a chance to enter parliament), discontinuing the distribution of bonus seats and removing roadblocks to forming a post-election governing coalition. These proposals, found in the comprehensive electoral reform package, are meant to make elections more competitive and honest.
Accordingly, we call on all the government structures and officials involved in accepting and implementing these changes to not spare any efforts in restoring Armenia’s often-criticized political field to a new level of openness and maturity, which is especially important given the ongoing political crisis.
Taking into account the importance and urgency of the proposed changes, and the necessity of considering additional recommendations expected from the Venice Commission, we call for the scheduling of parliamentary hearings, at which stakeholders can present their perspectives.
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor
Union of Informed Citizens
Transparency International Anticorruption Center
Journalists' Club "Asparez" NGO
"Restart" Scientific-Educational Foundation
Law Development and Protection Foundation