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On 5 October 2023, Yerevan Council of Elders convened an extraordinary session with the agenda of adopting an amendment to Yerevan Council regulations. Deputy mayor Suren Grigoryan, who was reporting during the session, noted that the Council session for the election of community head was to be held on October 10.
Information about the session was published only yesterday, while the Law on self-governance in Yerevan city specifies that information on a regular session shall be published at least one week before the session (Article 28), and information on an extraordinary session shall be published within 24 hours (Article 30).
The need for amending Yerevan city Council regulations stems from the fact that acting regulations do not reflect the procedure for selection of a community head by the Council, as specified in the RA Electoral Code.
The RA Electoral Code specifies that the Council elects the community head through open voting by a ballot. This regulation seems doubtful to Council members, and a proposal was made during Yerevan city Council session to make a recommendation to the National Assembly to consider rejecting the use of ballots.
Taking into account that the Independent Observer Alliance supports the acting procedure for electing a community head, we find it necessary to clarify the importance of using ballots in this case.
Community head election by the Council of Elders has become one of the most sensitive topics in the proportional electoral system. Community head election through a closed voting in Vanadzor caused a political crisis in 2016. Open voting aims at neutralizing tools for secret pressures, which can factually lead to a situation, where community residents do not know how and who forms their local self-government bodies. At the same time, voting should be done by ballots so that verification of validity is not conditioned by the possibility of videorecording or live broadcast of the Council session.
Existence of ballots is important both for the Council member to vote independently, and for its recording and further confirmation. This approach should be the same in all communities, while a differentiated approach in Yerevan and other communities is not acceptable.
At the same time, we find it necessary to record that Article 68 of the Law on Local Self-Governance specifies a confidential voting for the process of expressing impeachment against the community head and electing a new community head as a result. This is in contravention with Article 142.2 of the constitutional law “Electoral Code of the RA”, which establishes open voting for the community head and does not envisage an exception.
The Independent Observer is still summing up results of observation of the Yerevan Council elections and will present additional recommendations, including on improving and identifying regulations of community head elections in the proportional electoral system.