Discussion in Kapan: Constitutional Changes
Representatives of Syunik-based NGOs, international organizations and state agencies participated in the discussion on the process and project of the constitutional changes.

Armen Parsadanyan, Head of the Sustainable Development, NGO, said that the maintenance of the constitutional order is more important than regularly changing it.

“When the basic constitutional framework is not maintained, it matters least what laws will be adopted, and what constitution we will have. These constitutional changes are initiated to reduce the number of elections and the authorities can continue staying in power through elections every five years,” said Parsadanyan.

Hrayr Khachatryan from the Mission Armenia’s Civic Center in Kapan believes it is meaningless for the citizens and non-governmental organizations to share their thoughts on the project now.

“People should have had the chance to share their opinions and ideas at an earlier stage, starting from November 2013 when Armenia applied to the Venice Commission. From this phase the authorities should have taken into account and involved representatives of civil society. And the factions that initiated the changes and assumed the role to lead the society lost the confidence of people because of their voting.”

Davit Hakobyan from the Heritage Party believes that right now there is no need to change the Constitution of Armenia.

“Locals in Nrnadzor to Ashottsk, I believe, do not have a possibility to voice their opinions. Most people in the country have not accepted any election since 1996, and have been unsatisfied, for their hopes remain unfulfilled. Therefore, this is not a public discussion. We observe the constitutional changes as an accomplished fact and speak about it in the same way,” pointed Hakobyan.

If the constitutional changes are proposed by the Armenian President, “probably there was” a necessity for it, believes Armen Shahbazyan from the OSCE Office in Syunik.

“We think if there were no need for it, he wouldn’t have proposed it. It was probably a necessity that the head of the country came up with such a proposal. With respect to the ideology of the OSCE, we don’t see anything in the constitutional changes that may contradict the establishment of a democratic society. On the contrary, it goes in line with the 10 Helsinki principles. Another question is whether we will be able to establish a democratic society or not. This is a question hard to answer,” said Shahbazyan.

Davit Hakobyan disagreed saying that this is a radical change because the governance model is supposed to get changed.

“Instead of a possibility, it should be a necessity. It is not a game. And today there is no public need, for the public wasn’t part of the state governance and decision making be it in foreign or domestic affairs, neither directly nor indirectly.”

Political expert Hovhannes Galstyan believes the committee for the constitutional changes did not make any effort to put this important document to public discussions.

He added that in any country the underlying principles of the process of constitutional changes are more important rather than the outcome.

“If there are not these principles, the constitution will not be effective. The need for constitutional changes arises when the political situation and problems in the country imply that such changes are not made for the sake of one government or one power. To make it clear, there should be political crises, it shouldn’t be changed suddenly and quickly as it is in our case,” said Galstyan.

The expert said that the second important question is the balance of political powers. “Because of a political monopoly, even with the best ever constitution, constitutional provisions will remain a dead letter.”

Galstyan believes the society has to deal with a completely new document rather than some changes where the core of the constitution, its governance system is proposed to be changed.

 “And the commission should have involved representatives of different powers, as well as NGO representatives for such important changes. The commission was called professional but the representatives there literally depended on the president and endorsed state officials,” said Galstyan.

Grisha Khachatryan, representative of Syunik Regional Council, presented duties and powers defined by the Electoral Code and Law on Referendum.

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