Armenians will head to the polls to elect a new parliament on December 9. The electoral system under which the votes are cast and counted, however, is comprised of a complex process that has drawn criticism from the new government. It was designed by the old government, in order to, as many alleged then and now, to protect the Republican Party’s ability to gain and retain power.
Armenia’s National Assembly is elected through a two-tier party list proportional representation system.
It includes both a closed list system and an open list system.
Half of the minimum of 101 seats are assigned through a closed national list, where voters do not vote for candidates, but vote only for the party. And the other half through the open district list, where voters vote for an individual candidate. In Armenia, they call this second list the ‘ratings’ list.
The ballot has two sides; the front simply names the party (whose candidates have been promoted during the campaign and whose names are possibly listed on the precinct’s walls, but not on the ballot itself) at the national level; the back has the list of candidates for the district level. Voters vote for a party at the national level and vote for one candidate of the same party in a district list.
At the voting booth, voter is offered one ballot for each party. During the December 9 election, with 9 parties and 2 alliances running, voters will receive 11 ballot sheets. Voters then choose only one party ballot for which they are voting, the rest of the party ballots go into the trash. By taking a party’s ballot, the voter has automatically voted for that party. In the back of the ballot, the voter chooses one district candidate from the list of names from the same party.
Allocation of seats
The Parliament’s seats are allocated in the following way: 50% of seats are awarded to those in the national list and 50% of seats to those who receive the most votes on the district lists.
Parties need to receive at least 5% of the total votes cast, and alliances (blocs) 7%, in order to be included in the parliament at all.
Each party receives a percentage of seats equal to the percentage of votes they received in the election, with four seats reserved for national minorities – Assyrians, Kurds, Russians and Yezidis. Each party has its own candidates for each of these four groups as part of their general national list.
Any party that gains a majority of votes (anything over 50%) but falls short of the required 54 percent (which by law is needed to provide “for a stable majority,” will be granted additional votes to meet the 54 percent required by law.
Armenia’s electoral law stipulates that no party may have more than 2/3 of the seats in the parliament. If a party receives such an overwhelming majority of votes as to qualify them for more than 2/3 seats, those additional votes get proportionally distributed among all parties that have passed the 5 or 7 percent threshold.
In addition, there must be at least 3 factions in parliament. For example, if 2nd or 3rd place takers dont cross the 5/7% threshold, they'll still be represented and would get additional seats to get minimum 1/3 of seats. In this case, the total number of seats in parliament would increase.
Seats are allocated using the international method called D'Hondt. Proportional representation systems aim to allocate seats to parties approximately in proportion to the number of votes received. For example, if a party wins one-third of the votes then it should gain about one-third of the seats. In general, exact proportionality is not possible because these divisions produce fractional numbers of seats. As a result, several methods, of which the D'Hondt method is one, have been devised which ensure that the parties' seat allocations, which are of whole numbers, are as proportional as possible. The D'Hondt slightly favors large parties and coalitions over scattered small parties.
There are 13 electoral districts: 9 for each of Armenia’s regions or marzes, with Vayots Dzor and Syunik combined into one electoral district, and Yerevan is divided into four electoral districts.
National lists and district lists can overlap. However, names between districts cannot overlap.
Candidates listed in the district list do not have to live in that district.
Report by Syuzanna Petrosyan. Follow her on Twitter.