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Local proportional elections. The quota will be increased no earlier than 2021

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on March 26 launched the discussion of the Draft Law on “Amendments to the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Armenia “On Making Amendments to the Constitutional Law on Parties”, “Amendments and Addenda to the Law on Local Self-Government” and “Amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government in the City of Yerevan”.

 

The package of changes is authored by the Government of the Republic of Armenia and the deputies of the three NA factions Varazdat Karapetyan, Vahe Ghalumyan, Sergey Bagratyan, Vahagn Hovakimyan, Hamazasp Danielyan, Gevorg Gorgisyan.

 

The package of projects envisages a transition to proportional elections in communities with a population of more than 4,000, and the implementation of the quota enshrined in the current Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia, according to which the representation of one of the sexes in party lists cannot exceed 70%. In other words, we can hope that this change will increase the number of women in the Council of Elders of these communities by at least 30%. At the same time, the question arises, why are the transitional provisions observed in the proposed draft, according to which the 25% quota will be in force until 2021? In fact, it means that very little will change in terms of women’s participation in the local government system for a year.

 

It should be noted that a number of NGOs have proposed raising the quota, ensuring at least 40/60 of the candidates’ gender in party lists, but this proposal was not accepted. It should be noted that the same proposal was rejected on the eve of the 2018 snap elections, and at that time the political forces seemed to be ready to back down from the transitional provisions. At that time, however, no changes were made to the Electoral Code. As a result, the current legislation retains the 30/70 proportion established in 2016 as a prospect, and the transitional provisions defining the 25/75 proportion until 2021, which the parties are unable to refuse even after the revolution. And in this case, at least, it is strange when the current norm is fixed, and only in 2021 it is presented to the public as a novelty.

 

They did not accept the proposal to fix the possibility of nominating civil initiatives by extending the requirements of the bill to party lists on civil initiative lists, including the gender quota.

 

The authors also ignored proposals to ensure the proper awareness of the local population about the local elections, as they refused to comply with the requirement of the Central Electoral Commission in the Electoral Code to collect and publish sex-differentiated  explicit data on all participants in the election process.

 

At the same time, the package of projects contains a number of new approaches, which are conditioned by the constitutional amendments that came into force in 2018 with the presentation of the main speaker, RA Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Suren Papikyan.

 

According to the NA press service, Suren Papikyan said that the proposed changes are conditioned by the constitutional amendments, which came into force in 2018. The drafts propose to make changes in the local self-government system of Armenia, bringing it in line with the parliamentary model, to have legal norms emphasizing the real powers of the community council and ensuring their implementation. In particular, it is proposed to establish that local elections will be held in communities with up to 4,000 voters, as is the case with the current electoral system, and local elections will be held in communities with more than 4,000 voters.

 

The day of voting for the next mayoral election must be the day closest to the date of expiration of the term of office of the CEC.

 

Changes are planned in the regulations on the number of members of the community councils, the size of the electoral pledge, as well as on the formation of pre-election funds. Changes are also planned on the thresholds.

 

Varazdat Karapetyan, Chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Territorial Administration, Local Self-Government, Agriculture and Nature Protection, stressed in the report that one of the key reforms in the sphere is presented, this model has been discussed with various stakeholders for months.

 

“Elections in the communities must be made political so that people can take political responsibility, and we will come from personal responsibility to the field of political responsibility,” he said.

 

In their speeches and questions, the deputies spoke about the transition to a proportional electoral system, the positive solutions proposed by the draft, the provisions promoting the activation of the party system, the need to eliminate the bonus system. They praised the presentation of the mutually agreed version of the project, noting that this initiative increases the responsibility of political forces. It was emphasized that collective governance is a more effective method than managing one person in a community and the adoption of an initiative will lead to a significant improvement in the quality of governance, increasing the involvement of women at the local government level.

 

Ani Samsonyan voiced the opinion of the “Bright Armenia” faction of the National Assembly. She noted that civil society representatives have expressed concern that the project could lead to partisanship in the communities and could create problems for people who are voluntarily involved in the work of the local government system. In this context, she provided clarifications. According to Ani Samsonyan, by changing the electoral system, she also raises the level of political responsibility. The representative of the faction spoke about the examples of the application of the proportional electoral system in the communities.

 

Hamazasp Danielyan made a speech on behalf of the “My Step” faction of the RA National Assembly. He stressed that the purpose of the legislative changes is not to establish a party system, but to enable the local self-government system to eliminate inconsistencies. According to the MP, as a result of the changes, it will be possible to have much more representative, inclusive and open institutions at the local self-government level.

 

In his concluding remarks, RA Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Suren Papikyan thanked for the constructive discussion and noted that the proposals from the first to the second reading will be accepted, which will significantly improve the project. The Minister called for the adoption of the initiative, urging the deputies to vote for it.

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