By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian authorities have no plans to prolong President Robert Kocharian’s second five-year term in office or to enable him to seek a third term in 2008, a leading member of the governing Republican Party (HHK) said on Wednesday.
Tigran Torosian, who is also the deputy speaker of parliament, spoke to RFE/RL after the publication of the authorities’ revised draft amendments to Armenia’s constitution. Their original version was drawn up by Kocharian but failed to win sufficient popular support at a referendum in May 2003. The constitutional reform package has since undergone minor changes approved by the HHK and its two coalition partners, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Orinats Yerkir Party.
Among those modifications is a proposal to increase the Armenian parliament’s term in office from four to five years. The chairman of the National Assembly’s committee on legal affairs, Rafik Petrosian, suggested last month that the presidential term could likewise be extended by “one or two years.” However, the new amendments posted on the parliament’s web site carry no such change.
Torosian appeared annoyed by Petrosian’s statements which have fueled speculation about Kocharian’s desire to stay in office after 2008. “If this idea dawned on someone, they should not present it as an intention,” he said. “An intention would mean that many people are inclined to see that happening. As far as I know, there are no such plans in the National Assembly and the presidential administration.”
Under the current Armenian constitution controversially enacted in 1995, the president of the republic can not hold the post for more than two consecutive spells. Torosian denied some observers’ claims that the authorities could start a new countdown of Kocharian presidential years if the amendments are approved at the next constitutional referendum planned for July 2005.
“I think that if these changes are passed, the president of the republic will not run for a third time,” Torosian said. “Otherwise, one could always make minor changes in the constitution for that purpose. There is neither logic nor legal basis for doing that.”
“There are such precedents in some CIS countries,” he added, referring to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia that have been governed by the same autocratic leaders for more than a decade. “I believe that so far we have had a totally different orientation in our work: not to the East, but to the West.”
The constitutional package will be sent to the so-called Venice Commission of the Council of Europe monitoring legal reforms in Armenia later this month. It has to be endorsed by the parliament before being put to a referendum. Parliamentary debates on the issue are not expected before next spring.