Combating Formal Barriers: Taking the Eight Million AMD Electoral Deposit to the ECHR

Narineh Mkrtchyan, President of the National Press Club, did not appear on the official ballot for the presidential election. While she wanted to run for the election, the eight million dram electoral deposit stopped her. She fought the law in the Constitutional Court and lost. She’s now considering taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The deposit requirement blocked six other potential candidates out of the original 15 interested candidates. By law, the deposit will only be returned to the victor, making the expense a filing fee for everyone else. Eight million dram is only about $20,000, but if you compare national average incomes between Armenia and the US, it would be like having to pay a $275,000 filing fee to run in the US. The deposit is calculated as 8000 times the minimum salary of AMD 1,000 (I have no idea how 1,000 dram, or $2.5 could ever be considered a monthly salary, but that’s another issue).

The Venice Commission, a regular human rights evaluator of foundational laws in European states, gives only a vague statement regarding the electoral deposit: “the amounts of the electoral deposits are important as deposits should not be arbitrary obstacles to candidacy. The Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR reiterate that the amount of an electoral deposit must be considered carefully since every citizen should be provided a meaningful opportunity to stand as a candidate.” Their suggestion is to allow candidates to sign commitments to running to not create artificial financial burdens.

The European Court of Human Rights has looked at electoral deposits before. In the case of Sukhovetskyy v. Ukraine, the Court found that an electoral deposit of 60 times the minimum salary was not a human rights violation. The Court sided with the domestic authorities because of the significant national discussion that had gone into deciding on the exact number and that the amount was one of the lowest in Council of Europe states that require deposits.

We’ll see if the court is willing to uphold Armenia’s 8000 fold requirement.

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