Reform Controversy: Sargsyan defends plans for constitutional changes

Reform Controversy: Sargsyan defends plans for constitutional changes –

Armenianow – President Serzh Sargsyan sees no serious arguments against making changes in the current Constitution despite criticism from most opposition and non-governing forces, including his two predecessors.

Speaking at the meeting of the board of the ruling Republic Party of Armenia (RPA) on Saturday, Sargsyan said that a drastic reform of the political system of the country will underlie the concept of constitutional changes that a special commission of experts is due to submit by October 15. 

The head of state stressed that such a reform is a vital necessity for the development of Armenia as a law-abiding and democratic state. At the same time, he called for active political work with parliamentary and non-parliamentary forces for the promotion and coordination of the constitutional reform.

“We clearly understand that a maximally broad coordination of the constitutional reform is necessary as the Constitution can be effective only if there is public consent. We are ready to openly discuss any initiative that will be aimed at strengthening the rule of law and democracy, at the protection of human rights, the achievement of a more effective system of governance, an independent and impartial judiciary,” he said.

“All the counterarguments that the critics of the reform cite – even though I don’t see such counterarguments – are unclear to me… They say only one thing: now it is not the right time for that. And why is it not the right time? Can such a thing be an argument in a serious discussion at all? I would like to hear arguments, because arguments like “now it is not the right time, now everything is different, it was different in the past” are ways and excuses to avoid discussions,” Sargsyan concluded.

At least three of the four major opposition and non-governing parliamentary parties have opposed the reforms first announced about a year ago. The Armenian National Congress, the Prosperous Armenia Party and Heritage argue that Armenia has lots of much more pressing concerns, such as economic, social and demographic problems, than a constitutional reform and that the government should focus on solving these issues in the first place. Another implicit concern of the opposition forces is that by reforming the Constitution and effectively turning Armenia into a parliamentary republic the current ruling elites seek to reassure their continued grip on power after the next general elections in 2017-18. 

Still in April when several blueprints for the reform were first unveiled President Sargsyan pledged not to seek a high government post after the end of his second and last term in office in 2018. He implied that his two predecessors, Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Kocharyan, should follow suit. One of the changes planned in the Constitution supposedly may bar heads of state from holding the post for more than two times in a lifetime.

But both Ter-Petrosyan and Kocharyan pronounced against the need for constitutional reforms in Armenia at present. Kocharyan, who marked his 60th birthday on August 31, had also said that even if restriction for holding presidential office for more than two terms in a lifetime were included in the Constitution, it could not be applied retrospectively. And 69-year-old Ter-Petrosyan, who had cited his age as the main reason for not running for president again in 2013, even said in one of his recent interviews that “the issue of the constitutional reform is a sort of watershed between the dictatorial regime and healthy forces of the society, a problem on whose solution the future of Armenia and Karabakh depends.”

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