MMM games in Armenia

Armenia uses a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system, in which there are 41 single-seat districts (elected by plurality) and 91 national closed-list seats (allocated by PR, but with no consideration of the single-seat results). In the most recent election (12 May 2007), there were widespread chrges of fraud, particularly in the single-seat districts (SSDs). Now one of the disputed districts will have a by-election, and one of the candidates for the seat will be the top-ranked candidate in the list tier for the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, which won 7 list seats and no SSDs.

Perhaps this has happened before somewhere, but it certainly is unusual to have a sitting list member running in a nominal-tier by-election. If the legislator, Raffi Hovannisian, were to win, the party would increase its seat total to eight, given the noncompensatory nature of the PR tier. Presumably Hovannisian’s current seat would be taken by the candidate at the no. 8 rank on the list from the last election, which is standard practice when a member elected in a list system resigns (even if in this case the member would be resigning his seat to take a different seat!).

The government-backed “independent” candidate in the district in question, who had originally been declared the winner of the 12 May race, Khachik Manukian, is running again. So are two other candidates named Khachik Manukian.

The two men were clearly told to run for parliament by one of his rivals keen to damages his electoral chances. One of the obscure Manukians is a 75-year-old unemployed man, while the other works as a costume maker in a state theater in Yerevan.

Ah, the value of name recognition under nominal voting!

0 thoughts on “MMM games in Armenia

  1. Interesting update. My company has recently be working on some DG work in Armenia and one of my Democracy Studies class mates went to Armenia as an election observer for this most recent election. His experience is described at our blog.

    Do you have any thoughts on the recent electoral changes in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan? I know not really democracies, but I’d be interested to see if you have any thoughts.

  2. The use of decoy candidates under nominal voting is quite an old tradition. The Union Nationale in Quebec tried to pull this stunt a few times when they were in power in the fifties, most notably in the 1960 election when they almost succeeded in beating Liberal star candidate (and future premier) René Lévesque. I think that at the time the candidates’ political affiliation wasn’t even on the ballot, so people had to choose between “René Lévesque, journalist” and “René Lévesque, artist”. Fortunately, most voters knew Lévesque from his work as a reporter and, later, as the host of a current affairs program on television! (The UN also used other strategies to increase the chance that elections turn to their advantage.)

    Since then, I don’t think such strategies have been attempted here. I guess it’s part of a society’s political maturation.

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