By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The People’s Party (HZhK), a leading Armenian opposition force, supports the idea of a referendum on two different versions of constitutional reform, its chairman Stepan Demirchian said on Friday.
Demirchian told RFE/RL that the HZhK wants a constitutional bill drafted by several other opposition parties to be put on a nationwide vote along with President Robert Kocharian’s proposals, even though it is against Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic.
The six opposition parties believe that the current constitution enacted in 1995 gives the president of the republic disproportionate powers. Kocharian’s amendments would somewhat curtail them, while preserving the existing government order. The president insists that only his amendment package be put to a referendum.
Demirchian said the ten HZhK members of the 131-strong parliament will vote for the inclusion of the opposition bill in the ballot boxes. But he added that his party is still undecided as to which of the constitutional variants to support.
The opposition lawmakers are greatly outnumbered by deputies loyal to Kocharian. The National Assembly is expected to open debates on the crucial issue later this month or next month.
The HZhK has been one of the most vocal critics of Kocharian since the October 1999 assassination of its founder, former parliament speaker Karen Demirchian (Stepan’s father), together with seven other senior officials. Last autumn it joined forces with two other opposition groups to try, unsuccessfully, to launch impeachment proceedings against the head of state.