Constitutional Amendments: President sets date for referendum

Constitutional Amendments: President sets date for referendum –

Armenia’s Proposed Constitutional Changes Would Create Parliamentary Republic

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has signed a decree setting December 6 as the date for the country’s referendum to change the Constitution in order to establish a parliamentary republic. 

On October 5, the package of constitutional amendments to this effect was overwhelmingly approved by the National Assembly dominated by Sargsyan’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia. 

Two opposition factions and separate other opposition members also voted in favor of the decision, which is interpreted by the RPA as broad-based support for the reform slammed by several opposition groups.

Two parliamentary opposition parties – the Armenian National Congress (ANC) and Heritage – have opposed the measure, claiming that President Sargsyan, whom the current Constitution bars from running for a third consecutive term in 2018, seeks to “perpetuate” his power by removing the post of a strong president. The RPA says, however, that the goal of the reform is to promote further democratization of Armenia.

The ANC, Heritage and more than two dozen other opposition political and civic groups have vowed to mount a “No” campaign and oppose the changes, including with street protests. 

Hundreds of opposition activists have already held protests in Yerevan and the second largest Armenian city of Gyumri over the past two weeks. 

Sargsyan’s predecessor, Robert Kocharyan, who does not formally represent any party, also repeated his opposition to the reform, saying in an October 6 interview that “the constitutional draft carries substantial risks that the country will slide into a de facto one-party system.”

The Special Commission on Constitutional Reforms published seven draft articles of the draft constitution late on July 15. 

Among the proposals, the president would be elected by “special electors” consisting of lawmakers and local officials, from a list of nonpartisan candidates, and for a term of seven years without the possibility of reelection.

Executive powers would be given to the prime minister, who would be nominated by parliament and appointed by the president.

Armenia’s next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2017 and presidential polls for 2018.

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