By Hrach Melkumian
Six opposition parties that have put forward a new constitution for Armenia rounded on President Robert Kocharian Tuesday over his tough stance against any alternative to his vision of constitutional reform.
In a joint statement the parties accused Kocharian of “jeopardizing the constitutional process” and said they will fight on to ensure that their draft basic law is put on a referendum along with amendments suggested by the president. The signatories, which include the National Democratic Union (AZhM), Hanrapetutyun (Republic) and the Communists, announced the start of their concerted “constitutional movement.”
Kocharian on Friday made a veiled threat to dissolve the parliament if it caves in to opposition demands. He categorically rejected the opposition argument that voters should be given a choice between the two options when they go to polls next year.
The amendments worked out by a commission of pro-presidential lawyers would somewhat curtail sweeping powers vested in the office of president by the 1995 constitution. But the opposition parties want to transform Armenia into a parliamentary republic, arguing that the existing system of government impedes the country’s democratization.
The current legislature is largely loyal to Kocharian and likely to side with him on the issue. Still, the main author of the opposition bill, Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the president), said the six parties do see a real possibility for garnering the necessary 66 votes in the 131-seat National Assembly. He said the president “would think twice” before vetoing such a decision.
Deputies can overcome a presidential veto on the referendum by a two thirds majority.