The panelists of the Media Center initiated panel discussion entitled ‘Concept for Constitutional Amendments: Expanding of the Institution of Referendum’ included Tevan Poghosyan, Member of Parliament at the RA National Assembly, Secretary of ‘Heritage’ faction; and Artak Zeynalyan, Lawyer, Member of ‘Rule of Law’ NGO. Gagik Danielyan, Member of the Expert Committee for Constitutional Amendments adjunct to the RA President, Chairman of the Constitutional Law Center, did not participate in the discussion due to technical problems.
The panelists Artak Zeynalyan and Tevan Poghosyan first spoke on constitutional amendments in general, noting that for the time being ‘there is no public demand for constitutional amendments.’ ‘Public surveys, specialists, political parties claim that there doesn’t exist any public demand for constitutional amendments,’ clarified Artak Zeynalyan. With respect to the provision on expanding of the institution of referendum in the concept for constitutional amendments, the panelist noted ‘special mechanisms for people actualizing their self-governance must be developed to avoid Maydans and other manifestations. If people have an opportunity to initiate rallies, it will raise the authorities’ responsibility, as well as people’s direct participation in the governance.’
According to Zeynalyan, no law has undergone referendum so far. The two local surveys concerned the renaming of Gyumri and Vanadzor.
Tevan Poghosyan who agreed with the statement on the inappropriateness of constitutional amendments, argued ‘first there is no public demand, besides the institution of elections lacks confidence and support.’
The panelist stressed another factor, saying ‘The Republican Party of Armenia did not include a provision on constitutional amendments in their election program. Therefore, even if we suppose that the people voted for the present authorities, the latter ones are not to deal with an issue which was not voted for.’
With respect to expanding of the institution of referendum, Artak Zeynalyan considers the proposal inappropriate because the current Constitution has such a provision, ‘it is necessary to change the law on referendum only.’
Tevan Poghosyan pointed out that Armenia lacks the institution of direct democracy since there is no trust in this sector. The provision on expanding the institution of referendum is anti-constitutional, Poghosyan believes.
The referendum on Constitutional Amendments is planned to be held by the beginning of 2016. The draft concept was submitted to the President of Armenia in April, 2014.