By Armen Zakarian
Opposition parties pushing for radical constitutional changes in Armenia claimed the moral high ground on Thursday in their dispute with President Robert Kocharian, saying that his Wednesday remarks showed that he is primarily concerned with staying in power.
In a speech at Yerevan State University, Kocharian admitted that his constitutional amendment package will not be backed by the majority of voters if it is put to a referendum along with the opposition proposals. He also said defeat at the referendum could scuttle his reelection bid in next year's presidential elections.
One of the main authors of an alternative constitution, drawn up by six opposition parties, said the remarks prove that Kocharian is worried about the strength of the opposition. "The president admitted that he cares more about his reelection than about reform of the constitution," Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the president), chairman of the parliament committee on science and education, told RFE/RL.
He said the process has become a hostage to "the interests of a single person."
However, pro-presidential parties represented in the parliament dismissed the charge, insisting that Kocharian did not link constitutional reform to his reelection plans. Aghvan Vartanian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) accused the opposition of "making public consensus on the issue impossible."
The deputy speaker of the parliament, Gagik Aslanian, similarly noted that the opposition should embrace Kocharian's draft amendments instead of favoring "radical and revolutionary changes."
The opposition constitution would turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic.