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Electoral System, Corruption At Root of Armenian Political Problems, Minister Says

(Prague, Czech Republic--July 22, 2003) Aghvan Vartanian, Armenia's Minister of Social Security, described the difficult challenges faced in creating that country's new coalition government during a briefing last week at RFE/RL's broadcast operations center in Prague.

The government, made up of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun, and Orinats Yerkir (Law-based State) party, was formed following parliamentary elections held in Armenia in May. According to Vartanian, it is "the first time a civilized coalition agreement was reached" to set policy and govern relations among the coalition member parties.

Vartanian said that the most crucial reasons why such a basic task is still perceived as a great success in Armenia lie both in the electoral system itself and in widespread corruption -- a scourge that affects not only the Armenian political scene, but also the society as a whole.

Before the May elections, all the participating parties tried to find a collective "national accord" and sign a memorandum on holding free and fair elections. Unfortunately, the attempt failed as one of the parties refused to sign the memorandum. Vartarian admitted that, as a result of this failure, the Armenian political scene lost an important opportunity to ensure fair elections -- even though those violations that did occur had little impact on the final result. "In my opinion," Vartanian said, "the current parliament does not reflect the real political picture of Armenia. But we have recognized the results of the parliamentary elections because of the problems our government and our state is facing; we need to work on these problems."

According to Vartanian, the agreement signed by the coalition parties provides for the most crucial tasks now facing the newly formed Armenian government. These tasks include, Vartanian said, dealing with constitutional reforms, reform of the political system, reform of the Electoral Code and electoral system, strengthening the social aspect of economic planning in order to reduce the number of Armenians living in poverty from 50 to 30 percent, fighting against monopolization, and fighting against corruption and the shadow economy.

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