Constitutional “Revolution” or Reforms?: Discussion
The constitutional reforms are paving the way for a constitutional “revolution” in Armenia and one-party rule, rights defenders and political analysts believe.

The specialized committee drafting constitutional amendments has publicized its first draft of chapters 1-7 of the new Constitution, calling for proposals from political forces before their formal endorsement.

Under the amendments, the current mixed system of representation in the National Assembly including both party-list and single-mandate ballots will be replaced by a 100-percent proportional system, with 101 members of the new legislative body to be elected by party lists only for a period of five years. Article 5 proposes the President must be elected for a seven-year term.

“The Constitution – basic law for the country – is expected to be a constant document which must be a guideline for all authorities and governing parties. However, we see the package adopted in 1995 is amended for the third time. The constitution should not be modified too frequently not to have it degraded to the level of a simple law,” said Heriknaz Tigranyan, legal advisor at Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center.

Tigranyan believes it was never substantiated how the current Constitution could have led to a governance crisis which is mentioned as a main cause for a new constitution.

“Governance crisis would be possible if the constitutional regulations we have now failed to fix the mechanisms for counterbalance and interaction between authorities. I wonder why we should have opted for a parliamentary republic out of the blue given we have the same election system and the same mistrust towards that system,” Tigranyan said.

Head of the Civil Society Institute Artak Kirakosyan said the wording in the project is not reforms. “Actually, it is a new constitution, with efforts to establish a new republic – the Fourth Republic of Armenia. Meanwhile, it is not well-grounded that we are going through a governance crisis.”

Kirakosyan added the 1995 Constitution and the 2005 amended variant actually contained a number of problems whilst the committee chose to develop a completely new text instead of addressing the problems detected.

“They are fulfilling a political assignment on the one hand, by this planned transit to a parliamentary republic – a more stable and safe system for them, on the other hand, it seems a brainstorming – a PhD defense for the committee members. And now they want to involve the whole country in this process. Besides, the essence of the Constitution is violated, neglected since the Constitution is the basis of everything,” Kirakosyan said.

Armen Grigoryan, You Won’t Pass Civic Initiative, described the process as changes which are far from being reforms. “I cannot see any intention to amend the Constitution. It is an effort to extend the longevity of the current authorities. They are more likely to seek a constitutional revolution in Armenia, with a one-party system to be established later. There have long been talks about having a human-centered constitution but the present text is a party-centered constitution which will help Serzh Sargsyan be reelected again and again,” Grigoryan said.

Grigoryan believes even if the document proposes positive reforms from a human rights perspective, the basis of the constitution remains the provision on the formation of government.

“We can stop worrying about the other provision if there is a provision on the majority. This constitution restricts democratic processes and one of the national elections is dismissed. They limit what they have problems with. They seek to stand for next terms so as, finally, no party will be able to compete with the Republicans. They are blocking the democratic path for Armenia’s development and people are left nothing but a revolutionary way,” Grigoryan said.

Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator

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