Pashinyan criticized Armenia’s Constitution on Constitution Day

By Harut Sassounian

Only in Armenia does the leader of the country give a speech criticizing the Constitution on the Anniversary of the Constitution! This would be similar to the head of a country criticizing the independence of his country on Independence Day.

It would have been more appropriate if Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had announced six years ago that he wanted to have parts of the Constitution amended. Many countries have amended their Constitutions to keep up with changes in their societies. Armenia’s Constitution was first adopted on July 5, 1995, amended on Nov. 27, 2005, and then amended again on Dec. 6, 2015. All three versions were approved by a public referendum.

Pashinyan had repeatedly criticized the Constitution before he became Prime Minister. However, as soon as he came to power, he changed his mind, saying: “let’s work with the Constitution we have. This is not something that we can change every day.” The reason for his reversal was that he was very pleased with the existing Constitution given the fact the parliamentary governmental system gave the Prime Minister almost limitless authority.

However, when Pres. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan insisted that Armenia change its Constitution, Pashinyan immediately agreed, thus capitulating to the orders of Armenia’s enemy. Aliyev specifically demanded that Armenia remove from the Preamble of its Constitution the reference to the Declaration of Independence which mentioned Artsakh and the Armenian Genocide. Aliyev said that this was his pre-condition to sign a peace treaty with Armenia, which is something Pashinyan has been begging Azerbaijan for years. In fact, Pashinyan repeated Aliyev’s statement that it would be impossible to have peace with Azerbaijan as long as the Constitution’s Preamble included the reference that Aliyev rejected.

To complicate matters more, in line with his constant contradictions on all issues, Pashinyan initially said he disagreed with Aliyev’s request to remove that reference from the Constitution. He reasoned that the peace treaty’s provisions will take precedence over all domestic laws or even the Constitutions of both countries.

Furthermore, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan also firmly rejected Aliyev’s demand to amend the Constitution, declaring that such a demand would be considered interference in the country’s internal affairs. One would think that after such firm rejections by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, this subject would have been closed.

Not if you are Pashinyan. He recently signed an order to form a commission that will prepare a whole new Constitution, not just amend it. By doing so, he annulled the two-year-long effort of the parliament’s existing commission to reform the Constitution. The other problem Pashinyan created is that he gave the commission the deadline of end 2026 to come up with a new Constitution which means that Aliyev will not sign a peace treaty with Armenia until two and a half years from now.

In his July 5 speech on Constitution Day, Pashinyan went into a lengthy diatribe against the existing Constitution, saying: “the citizen believes that the ruling elite created that text, announced about its adoption, and, in fact, introduced it in Armenia.” He further stated that: “And in the text of the [new] Constitution itself, the people express their idea of how they imagine that state, its governance, what it should be like in general, and what project we will all be working on to realize.” He thus falsely implied that, as opposed to the existing Constitution, the text of the new Constitution will be prepared by the citizens of the country. Regrettably, the new Constitution will probably be drafted by a group of Pashinyan’s party members who have no competence in jurisprudence. Rather than expressing the wishes of the citizens, it will reflect the self-serving political agenda of the ruling regime. Pashinyan and his circle hope that by preparing a new Constitution, they will be able to avoid being charged for their many violations under the existing Constitution.

In complying with Pres. Aliyev’s demand to change Armenia’s Constitution, Pashinyan failed to raise Armenia’s objections to certain parts of Azerbaijan’s Constitution. Why doesn’t Pashinyan demand that in return for changing Armenia’s Constitution, Aliyev change Azerbaijan’s Constitution? With Pashinyan, it is always a one-way street. When Aliyev demands territories from Armenia, why doesn’t Pashinyan demand the Armenian territories under Azerbaijan’s control? When Aliyev demands that Armenia give Azerbaijan a corridor through Armenia, why doesn’t Pashinyan demand that Azerbaijan give a similar corridor to Armenia through Azerbaijan? Once you start capitulating to a bully’s demands, there will be endless other demands. Aliyev will never be satisfied with Armenia’s concessions. On the contrary, he will be encouraged to demand many more concessions until nothing is left of Armenia.

Finally, Pashinyan did not say what would happen if and when the new Constitution is rejected by the citizens of Armenia in a referendum? Would Pashinyan use his favorite scare tactic warning that if the people don’t approve the Constitution, Aliyev will start a new war with Armenia?

The prospect of Pashinyan changing the Constitution at Aliyev’s demand adds one more important reason why Armenians should do everything possible to get rid of him at the earliest opportunity. Armenia does not need a new Constitution. It needs a new competent leader.

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