Opinions of the Venice Commission
The Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR welcome that the Armenian authorities have prepared a draft aiming to bring
the legislation on referendums in conformity with the Constitution and international standards.
It is recommended to address the following key issues:
- Clearly address the unity of content of the referendum proposal and the requirement for the question of referendum to be clear and not misleading;
- clarify and further develop the provisions on complaints and appeals, to ensure an effective system of appeal enabling electoral stakeholders to appeal the decisions that affect them;
- require the authorities to provide objective information about the proposals put to referendum;
- provide for submission of draft popular initiative for the Constitutional Court’s review prior to the collection of additional signatures; entitle the Constitutional Court to provide a nuanced ruling on the constitutionality of each proposed amendment, and allow for the valid provisions of a popular initiative to be submitted to the people’s vote without a new collection of signatures;
- clearly regulate the collection of a referendum initiative support signatures and their verification and ensure that these rules do not restrict the right of eligible citizens to sign popular initiatives;
- allow more than one structure for the “yes” and the “no” votes, respectively, – including for financial reporting - while ensuring equality of opportunity between supporters and opponents of the referendum.
- expressly provide for the duty of neutrality of administrative authorities, as well as for effective sanctions for breaching it, in order to prevent the misuse of administrative resources; prohibit public sector employees from taking part in campaigns while performing official duties;
- provide for the formation of precinct electoral commissions with representation of the referendum proposal’s supporters and opponents;
- strengthen transparency of all funds collected and spent on the campaign;
- extend the free airtime allocated on public radio and television, and consider requiring the public broadcaster to organise campaign debates with the referendum “parties”;
- allow observation by NGOs created less than one year before the referendum and whose charter objectives relate to the issues put to referendum or to any of the issues listed in Article 21.1(3) of the draft law.
Measures taken by the State
The Constitutional Law on Referendum was adopted by the Parliament on March 23,2018 and is in force since April 9, 2018. A number of key recommendations of the joint opinion have been followed, at least partially, concerning: the need for a clear and not misleading question; the provision of objective information (more precisely, explanatory reports from both the “yes” and “no” sides, albeit to the polling stations and not to voters); the clarification of the rules on the collection of signatures. The adopted law also followed other recommendations of the joint opinion: it provided for the duty of neutrality of administrative authorities, by prohibiting public sector employees from taking part in campaigns; it provided for the formation of precinct electoral commissions with representation of the referendum proposal’s supporters and opponents; it made observation by NGOs easier by extending it to those created six months rather than one year before the elections. Some key recommendations have however not yet been followed, concerning: the need for clearly addressing the unity of content of the referendum proposal; the need for ensuring the review of draft popular initiatives by the Constitutional Court before and not after additional signatures have been collected; allowing more than one structure for the “yes” and “no” votes, respectively.