By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian public on Thursday got a glimpse of the impending constitutional reform when the country’s highest-ranking judges unveiled the main points of amendments proposed by President Robert Kocharian. The chairman of the Constitutional Court, Gagik Harutiunian, said the draft changes amount to a “new edition” of the 1995 basic law as they would strengthen Armenian judiciary, parliament and government by curbing sweeping presidential powers.
The head of state would need the parliament’s consent for appointing prime minister and government ministers and would no longer be able to veto all cabinet decisions, Harutiunian told a news conference. He said the president would also be stripped of his right to dismiss the overwhelming majority of the country’s judges.
According to Harutiunian, the package of amendments drafted by a presidential commission on constitutional reform seeks to boost legal safeguards against human rights abuses and envisages the abolition of the death penalty and a clause prohibiting dual citizenship. The hefty package, so far kept confidential, is to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration later this month. Its approval by the majority of deputies would pave the way for a nationwide referendum which Kocharian hopes to call for next spring.
The proposed changes are unlikely to satisfy those opponents of Kocharian who have been advocating Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic. They argue that the country’s leading political groups have not been involved in the process.
Harutiunian claimed that the so-called Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which monitors legal reforms in Armenia, overwhelmingly endorsed the presidential package in a written conclusion unveiled last Friday.