The New Constitution of Artsakh will Lead to Concentration of Power and Resources
21.02.2017
12:00
A constitutional referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh which resulted in 87 percent of votes in favor of the proposed amendments, aimed at the extension of the power of one person.

The amendments allow the acting President Bako Sahakyan, whose term expires this year, continue in office until 2020, having a chance of being re-elected for another two terms. Hayk Khanumyan, Chairman of “National Renaissance” Party, MP of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said this during the discussion on the topic of “Constitutional Referendum in Artsakh: Assessments and Reviews” at Media Center on February 21.

Under the new constitution, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will be renamed the Republic of Artsakh. It is the "external" side of the new constitution. As regards the substantive issue, the power becomes more concentrated in Karabakh. The Prime Minister's position will not exist anymore; the government will be directly headed by the head of state - the president. He will be elected by direct state elections and will be able to form a government alone. In addition to the appointment and dismissal of members of the government, the president will also have the right of legislative veto which may be appealed only by the parliamentary majority.

NKR President Bako Sahakyan has already been elected as president twice and according to the acting constitution cannot seek a third term. His presidential term ends this year but the next parliamentary elections will take place only in 2020. After the establishment of the new constitution till 2020, a transitional period will be set during which the president will continue to stay in office. Then the presidential and parliamentary elections will take place on the same day. Due to the critics, this is the essence of the constitutional amendment to maintain power in the hands of the ruling group and some individuals.

“The meaning and purpose of the constitutional amendments are the reproduction of the power of NKR President Bako Sahakyan. This leads Artsakh to the swamp. The constitutional amendments will enable Bako Sahakyan to run for president twice again after 2020. If that happens, there will be a great sense of injustice and frustration among the society,” Khanumyan said, adding that the new constitution will lead to excessive concentration of power and resources.   

Artsakh structure of ARF Dashnaktutyun party did not record serious violations during the constitutional referendum in Artsakh on February 20. “There were some suspicious things in some polling stations but significant violations were not recorded. The suspicious things are due to the activity of 97 percent voters. This is unusual since such activity was not recorded even during the parliamentary elections,” David Ishkhanyan, Head of “Dashnaktsutyun” NA Faction of Nagorno-Karabakh, Member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, said this (via video call).

He said that Dashnaktutyun party also had concerns regarding the new constitution but does not agree with Khanumyan that this process will lead to Bako Sahakyan’s extension of the term till 2030. “Years ago, in the context of the constitutional amendments, the same thing was said about the former president Arkady Ghukasyan but this did not happen. I think that the same situation will be this time again,” Ishkhanyan said.

Ara Papyan, Chairman and Founder of “Modus Vivendi” Centre, spoke about why Armenia and Artsakh chose different models of state governance.  

“Armenia and Artsakh are in the same military and political situation. The new Constitution was adopted in Armenia as this system is more democratic and can provide better governance in the current era. The procedure is opposite in NKR. NKR should be more democratic: now I'm sure that there were no violations but it is not positive. The upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia will not pass with a lot of violations but when people go and vote in favor of what the government wants, it's bad,” Papyan said.  

Michael Zolyan, political scientist, agrees with the fact that the constitutional amendments are aimed at ensuring the reproduction of certain individuals in Artsakh. “But the problem is that this is in no way aimed at easing the anxieties of the people of Artsakh. So, the constitutional amendments are not high on the agenda for Artsakh as the constitutional amendments in Armenia is not a significant issue,” Michael Zolyan said.To watch the video, follow the link.  

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

To contact the author please send an email to [email protected].

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