By Margarit Yesayan
Armenia can not afford to become a parliamentary republic because it needs a powerful head of state to successfully complete its decade-long transition to democracy and a market economy, President Robert Kocharian said on Thursday, reaffirming his opposition to a sweeping constitutional reform.
“I am convinced that a personalized responsibility is very important for a country in transition in this region,” he told reporters after presiding over a weekly cabinet meeting. “The parliamentary system of governance has its advantages with its emphasis on [decision-making] consensus. The existing system is semi-presidential and seeks to balance these two approaches.”
The current Armenian constitution, enacted at a controversial referendum in 1995, concentrates sweeping powers in the office of president, ensuring Kocharian’s supremacy over other branches of government. Growing calls for constitutional reform led in 1998 to the creation of a presidential commission tasked with suggesting amendments in the basic law. Kocharian has made it clear repeatedly that while being ready to cede some of his powers to the parliament and the government, he is against changing the existing system.
The presidential commission dominated by pro-presidential lawyers completed its work in March, submitting a package of draft amendments to Kocharian’s consideration. Their content has not yet been disclosed. They will have to be discussed by the parliament before being put to a referendum.
Most Armenian parties represented in the National Assembly, including the pro-Kocharian Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), advocate a shift to the parliamentary system that would make the government appointed by and accountable to the parliament.