Electoral Code changed in Armenia in run up to snap elections
Amendments to Armenian electoral code
The Armenian parliament adopted amendments to the Electoral Code in a rapid manner yesterday, just two and a half months before snap elections scheduled for June 20.
Elections will only be held according to a proportional electoral system, without any ‘rating lists.’
82 MPs voted for the adoption of the amendments; no one voted against or abstained.
The amendments were opposed by both opposition factions represented in parliament. Bright Armenia, moreover, stated that from this moment the legitimacy of the elections is being questioned.
A proportional electoral system presupposes the formation of elected bodies of power only according to party lists. When elections are held according to a proportional system, deputy mandates are distributed in full accordance with the number of votes gained by the parties.
Rating voting is an electoral system that is used to select one winner from two or more candidates on the electoral lists. During voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference, rather than just voting for one candidate. If the candidate receives more than half of the votes, then they win.
What the ruling party is trying to change
The My Step faction proposed the following amendments:
- replace the rating electoral system with a proportional one
- to establish a new threshold for parties and party unions: for parties – 4%, for blocks of two parties – 8%, for blocks of three parties – 9%, for blocks of four or more parties – 10%
- remove the restriction on the number of parties participating in the formation of post-election coalitions and extend the period provided for their formation
- to increase the number of forces represented in parliament from the current three to four
- reduce the size of the electoral deposit for parties and party blocs running in parliamentary elections
The position of the gov’t
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced on March 18 that early parliamentary elections will be held in Armenia on June 20.
The authorities and two opposition parties represented in parliament agreed to hold early elections to overcome the protracted internal political crisis in the country, which arose following defeat in the Second Karabakh War in the fall of 2020. Since then, the opposition has been demanding the resignation of the prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, who refuses to leave only at the request of opposition supporters.
Current government officials immediately announced that they want to amend the Electoral Code before the elections.
And the most important change in it was also announced in advance: elections should be held only according to a proportional electoral system, that is, according to party lists.
On April 1, during the discussion of the amendments, Vahagn Hovakimyan, a deputy from the ruling My Step faction, recalled that the electoral rating system in Armenia was criticized by all opposition parties since its introduction:
“I want to emphasize that there was initially a broad consensus among political forces on the issue of holding elections according to a pure proportional system. In the elections in 2018, the rejection of the rating system was presented in the program of all current parliamentary parties.”
Opposition does a turnabout
The Prosperous Armenia Party refused to participate in the meeting at all. And Bright Armenia criticized the proposed amendments. The faction leader Edmon Marukyan stated:
“Dear citizens, speculating in your name, an attempt is being made to make another wrong step. I officially declare that the legitimacy of the elections is called into question if the rules of the game change.”
According to the oppositionist, Armenian citizens are already deprived of the right to elect the president and mayors of large cities. “According to the authorities, if the people are given the right to choose, then people will vote for the criminals. Therefore, in their opinion, the authorities themselves should determine the electoral lists.”
“You have 44 people elected according to a rating system. Which one of you is the culprit? The problem was not in the electoral order, but in the fact that pre-election bribes were distributed. You cannot even correctly identify the problem,” the oppositionist addressed the authorities.
This criticism was answered by an MP from the ruling My Step faction in parliament, Ruben Rubinyan. He cited excerpts from Marukyan’s 2018 speeches when he opposed the rating system.
With these amendments, according to Rubinyan, they fulfill not only their promise and obligation, but also the wishes of other parliamentary and extra-parliamentary forces.
Political scientist Garik Kerian believes that the rating system is one of the most shameful electoral systems in the whole world.
“I don’t even know of a country where it is used, they say there is one or two. Where the previous authorities found them remained a mystery. This is such a mixed electoral system that even experts do not understand it.
In the 2017 elections, 2,300 people were candidates for MP, and after the elections, 8-9 resolutions were applied to calculate how many mandates each party received.
Figuratively, I interpreted this as “a selective system of scratching the left ear with the right foot.” With this electoral system, it was under no circumstances allowed to go to the polls.
There is a British system – 100% majority, or Italian – 100% proportional, when a person votes for a party and each party gets as many seats as they gave for it.
Why did you have to come up with such complex nonsense?”