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Armenian Opposition Tells Election Experts It's Dissatisfied With Reforms

The Heritage Party's Armen Martirosian: "This gives us no hope."

The Heritage Party's Armen Martirosian: "This gives us no hope."

YEREVAN -- Armenia's leading opposition forces told European election experts that they remain adamant in dismissing electoral reforms promised by President Serzh Sarkisian's governing coalition, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Representatives from the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the Armenian National Congress (HAK), and Heritage Party (Zharangutyun) told officials from the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in separate meetings on September 14 that the government draft on reforming elections would not address chronic vote-rigging in Armenia.

The election experts were on the first day of a fact-finding visit to Yerevan. The visit is aimed at assessing the Armenian authorities' stated efforts to improve the conduct of elections in the country.

Armen Martirosian of the Heritage Party told RFE/RL that the authorities would retain "numerous opportunities for carrying out vote falsifications."

"This gives us no hope that the authorities are preparing to hold normal elections," he said.

Armenian authorities have pledged to improve the conduct of elections in the country, along with other political reforms, under pressure from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).

The pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament has already drafted fresh amendments to the electoral code and submitted them to another Council of Europe institution, the Venice Commission, for examination.

Dashnaktsutyun's Artyusha Shahbazian said he and other deputies from his party urged the two European bodies to help ensure that an alternative electoral reform package jointly drafted by Dashnaktsutyun is not being ignored by the ruling coalition.

The opposition package was sent to the Venice Commission this summer. "They have received our proposals and said they are still looking into them," Martirosian said.

The HAK, which is not in parliament, presented the visiting experts with a separate seven-point plan of electoral reform, according to Vladimir Karapetian, a senior member of the opposition alliance. Karapetian declined to disclose changes sought by the HAK, saying only that they are "mainly of a technical nature."

"We believe that by accepting the proposals made by the opposition and international organizations, the authorities will show whether they have the political will to change the conduct of elections," Karapetian told RFE/RL.