Elections In Armenia. A Decisive Day
2 April, 2017
Photo: Gevorg Ghazaryan

This article was originally published and prepared by Hromadske's partners Jam News

Parliamentary elections in Armenia will be held through a proportional system. A new legislative body will comprise at least 101 MPs. Under a new Election Code, 4 MP mandates will be allotted to the country’s largest ethnic minority groups.

According to the Armenian National Statistics Service, ethnic Armenians make 98,2% of country’s population. The latest 2011 population census data showed, there are 8 ethnic communities, including the largest ones: Yazidis, Russians, Assyrians and Kurds. According to the Statistics Service, Yazidis make over 35,000 people; Russians – about 12,000; Assyrians – about 3,000 and Kurds- approximately 2,000.

Among those, who stand for election are 5 political parties: Republican Party of Armenia, ‘Armenian Revival’, ARF ‘Dashnaktsutyun’, Free Democrats”, Communist Party. And also 4 blocs: ‘Yelk’, ‘Tsarukyan’, ‘Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanyan’, ‘Armenian National Congress’.

Overall 1,511 MP candidates, nominated by 9 political entities, stand in election. 27 candidates have been nominated by the ethnic minority groups. 52 candidates have withdrawn from the parliamentary race.

Women make nearly one-third of MP candidates-434, including 5 candidates nominated by ethnic minority groups.

MP candidates standing in this parliamentary election considerably outnumber those running for parliament in 2012. A total of 1,171 candidates were nominated for Parliament in previous election, 2 of them were denied registration and 31 candidates withdrew from the parliamentary race. Women candidates were also fewer in number last time-about 23%.

Over 28,000 observers from 49 Armenian public and human rights organizations, as well as 600 international observers, will monitor the election process.

According to the republican police data, 2, 564, 195 citizens are eligible to vote in Armenia. Meanwhile, the human rights and public organizations claim, those voter lists have been ‘bloated’ at the expense of citizens who have emigrated from the country.

It is noteworthy that according to the 2011 population census data, Armenia’s resident population totals 3,018,854 people, including 2,322,747 –above the age of 18. In particular, during 2012 parliamentary election there were 2,522,906 people on the voter lists; in 2013 presidential election – 2, 527,822 people; whereas during 2015 constitutional referendum the number of voters reached 2,566,998 people.

Daniel Ionesyan, a program coordinator at the Association of Informed Citizens, believes that the voter list compilation methods gives no grounds to criticism:

«The problem lies in a mechanism of ‘cleaning up’ the voter lists. The lists have been ‘bloated’ from year to year at the expense of those, who emigrated and were granted citizenship in other countries, but who failed to undergo a citizenship renouncement procedure and de-facto maintained Armenian citizenship. Or, for example, a citizen died in immigration, but his death certificate wasn’t produced at the diplomatic mission or the police. Since the police have no documental evidence of the aforesaid, those individuals are still included in the voter lists, because no one is entitled to deprive them of a right to vote.

Armenian opposition suggests solving the voter lists problem at the legislative level.

Armen Martirosyan, Deputy Chair of the Heritage Party:

“In order to ‘clean up’ the voter lists, they can be divided into two parts. In particular, Armenian citizens permanently residing abroad can be excluded from the basic list and put on additional one, thus ensuring their voting right, provided that they decide for certain reason to arrive and cast their ballot in Armenia.

Jam News also interviewed Yerevan residents, participating in polls.

What key task would you set before the new Parliament?

Knar Martirosyan, 26, a reporter

“The most important thing about a new parliament is its composition, because judging by the former parliament’s example, most of the MPs had no idea why they were there and what they were discussing. Moreover, they were churning out the important laws not even reading them. Finally, it is necessary to eradicate a tradition of ‘promotion through mandate’. We should get rid of MP-generals, MPs from the criminal world, oligarch and singer MPs…”

Mary Ohanyan, 65, a housewife:

“Radical reforms in Armenia’s judicial and legal system, formation of independent judiciary and justice bodies are among the priority tasks that need to be accomplished by the new Parliament. And also, the newly elected parliament should develop and implement an anti-corruption program that will be efficient in real life rather than on paper.”

Hayarpi Simonyan, 34, a lecturer at Yerevan State University:

“It should elaborate laws and regulations that will reduce the emigration rate; create conditions for agriculture development, as well as draft the laws to reduce the volume of agricultural exports to the country. It should ensure independent judiciary and fight against corruption. A lawmaker’s salary should not be much higher than that of an average employee. I expect the new parliament to work out a balanced wage policy.”

Karen Yeritsyan, 34, VivaCell-MTS employee:

“Regrettably, Parliament is a part of political system. In view of Armenia’s present-day reality, neither the Parliament, nor the government, could be taken seriously. They don’t stand as the defenders of Armenian nation’s interests and they are a constituent part of the incumbent regime.

Levon Mkrtchyan, 30, an archeologist:

“The key task I would have set before the Parliament is to form a political culture that the Armenian political forces are lacking so much. The Parliament should be multipolar and balanced.

What is the outgoing Parliament’s key problem, what major mistakes has it made, what has it failed to do and what should it have done?

Knar Martirosyan:

“The outgoing Parliament resembled ‘a happy campers’” club, they weren’t credible. Their level of romanticism and populism overstepped the permissible bounds, and the Parliament’s work gave grounds to discontent among the parliamentarians themselves, who, instead of fulfilling their duties, turned it into a platform for the party and interpersonal battles. A number of endorsed laws, for example, the Tax Code amendments, have caused public outrage, but that hasn’t prevented the people’s chosen ones from going against its will. The Parliament failed to perform its function and it was mostly the government that was engaged in drafting the major part of laws for the past 5 years.

Mary Ohanyan:

“The outgoing Parliament’s key problem was that it lacked independence when making decisions and passing the laws.

Hayarpi Simonyan:

“The outgoing Parliament’s major problem was a lack of professionalism and corrupt MPs, and also, no interaction between the MPs and the electorate. Among the Parliament’s mistakes it’s worth mentioning an inefficient distribution and spending of state budget funds, selling off some strategic facilities to the foreign companies and private persons. The major thing that the outgoing Parliament failed to do is to abolish monopoly. As for the things it should have done, it’s probably the healthcare system reform, increase of science funding, as well as facilitation of small and medium business.”

Levon Mkrtchyan:

«The outgoing Parliament was particularly distinguished by a lack of professionalism in any spheres, be it socio-economic or foreign policy issues or defending the national interests. The main reason behind the aforesaid is a lack of legitimacy of the legislative body.

Karen Yeritsyan:

“The outgoing Parliament is synonymous to the word ‘problem’. Whatever they did have further aggravated the people’s troubles; people have been enslaved and captivated by a criminal syndicate called the ‘government’. Whatever the Parliament did or failed to do served the interests of the ruling oligarchic elite.

What are your personal problems that the government can and should solve?

Knar Martirosyan:

“The government should finally launch an efficient fight against corruption and illegality; should create equal conditions for business; carry out a judiciary reform; revitalize the economy, which will have an influence on the Armenian community, in general, and personally my living standards, in particular.  They should also ensure my safety, as a citizen of this country; they should stop violating my rights in various fields and squandering the funds that have accumulated from taxes that I’ve paid.

Mary Ohanyan:

“Gas and power tariffs should be revised and the prices on goods at the domestic market should be regulated, so that one doesn’t have to buy the same medicines abroad, where they are available at the lower prices. It’s necessary to eradicate monopoly on the imports of medical preparations, as well as to reform a rotten, corrupt healthcare system. And, finally, the employment pensions should be certainly increased.

Hayarpi Simonyan:

“Almost each and every citizen of Armenia has someone, who had to immigrate abroad or left the country to earn one’s living. I expect a new Parliament, first of all, to create favorable socio-economic conditions, allowing our relatives to stay in the country, to live and work here.  Another expectation is related to abolition of a tender system in the science field.

Karen Yeritsyan:

“Everything ‘new’ is just a reproduction of ‘old’. Being an optimist in life, I willy-nilly become pessimistic when the so-called ‘authorities’ start dealing with my personal problems. My only objective now is to find the way how to immigrate with my family to a more civilized country, the Parliament of which could be entrusted with settlement of my personal and family problems.

Levon Mkrtchyan:

“Regrettably, I don’t expect the future Parliament to solve my personal issues and problems. It won’t be essentially different from the previous one.

// by Tigran Petrosyan