By Nane Atshemian
Vahagn Khachatrian, who was an advisor to former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, thinks there is little hope that the Armenian authorities will embrace the Council of Europe's proposals regarding constitutional amendments before June 23, when the revised amendments are to be submitted to the Council of Europe.
Speaking at a seminar in Yerevan on June 15 to discuss the advisability of constitutional amendments, Khachatrian said: "Even in these conditions [President] Robert Kocharian does not want to yield in the face of huge pressure. The authorities do not want to retreat in any way, realizing well that any nationwide event, be it a referendum or elections, creates an additional problem for them as they will have to develop a rigging mechanism and [select] those in charge of these riggings."
In Khachatrian's opinion, "no matter what constitution we have, it will never be a problem for the current authorities to bypass or violate it."
Meanwhile, Progressive-Liberal Party Chairman Hovannes Hovannisian slammed Kocharian for allegedly attempting to dupe the West, while in real fact, Hovannisian thinks, the authorities are not ready for serious reforms and "will rig the outcome of the referendum" this fall in which voters will be asked to approve or reject the final version of the constitutional amendments.
Another reason, according to Hovannisian, is that Kocharian "cherishes hopes that the new Constitution will enable him to be nominated [for president] for a third time in conditions of a certain situation," or alternatively that Kocharian "wants to give a gift - a new constitution - to his successor to make him a much stronger leader who would act as a guarantor for him [Kocharian] and his entourage in their future."
Speaking at the seminar, political analyst Aghasi Yenokian expressed the opinion that it is much more important that the proposed package of amendments should limit the powers of the executive body.
Leading legal experts from the Council of Europe were in Yerevan earlier this month to discuss with Armenian officials their serious concerns regarding the draft constitutional amendments.
Their statement criticized the Armenian authorities for failing to embrace key Venice Commission recommendations that would give more powers to the Armenian parliament, limit Kocharian's authority to appoint judges, and make the mayor of Yerevan an elected official. The statement warned that failure to accept those recommendations would seriously hamper Yerevan's efforts at European integration.