YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) will throw its weight behind President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional reform only if it envisages Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic, a leader of the opposition party said on Tuesday.
Artsvik Minasian said Dashnaktsutiun has already submitted a list of 28 concrete proposals which it believes should be incorporated into a package of draft constitutional amendments that are expected to be put on a referendum next year. He singled out a switch from the existing presidential to the parliamentary system of governance.
“If our proposals are not accepted or if the system of governance doesn’t change, if our basic approaches are … not incorporated into the final version [of constitutional amendments,] we will consider such changes meaningless, illogical and unsustainable,” Minasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
President Serzh Sarkisian last week formally approved a reform “concept” put forward by an ad hoc presidential commission. It would turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic with a powerful prime minister and largely ceremonial president.
Sarkisian stated at the same time he still has second thoughts about such a transition because of national security considerations. He told the commission to examine the issue in greater detail before drafting concrete amendments.
“The president’s latest thoughts are cause for some concern,” said Minasian. “While understanding the president’s misgivings related to two very important issues — internal and external security — we believe that constitutional changes can address them.”
Vahram Baghdasarian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), hinted on Tuesday the parliamentary republic is still the most likely reform option to be put on the constitutional referendum. He said the Sarkisian administration is strongly interested in multi-partisan support for the reform.
Baghdasarian also made clear that the HHK will single-handedly decide how to amend the constitution if it fails to achieve a “broad-based consolidation” of political forces.
Dashnaktsutiun has so far been the only parliamentary opposition party to support the idea of the constitutional reform. It has disagreed with other, more radical opposition parties that say the reform would only enable Sarkisian to extend his rule beyond 2018.
Minasian insisted that the planned radical change would minimize the likelihood of continued electoral fraud in Armenia. In that regard, he pointed to Dashnaktsutiun’s demand that future parliamentary elections be conducted only on the party-list basis. That is one of the 28 proposals sent by the party to the presidential commission.
Under the existing Electoral Code, 90 of the 131 seats in the Armenian parliament are contested under the system of proportional representation. The remaining 40 seats are distributed in nationwide single-mandate constituencies. They are typically swept by government-linked wealthy candidates accused of vote buying and voter intimidation.