By Karine Kalantarian
A senior lawmaker said on Tuesday that President Robert Kocharian and his ruling coalition may accept further changes in their newly revised package of constitutional amendments that has been strongly criticized by Armenia’s largest opposition group.
But deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, a key player in the Kocharian-led constitutional reform, made it clear that the Armenian authorities’ actions will primarily depend on the Council of Europe’s opinion about their latest constitutional draft.
The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional law, is currently looking into the draft and is due to deliver its verdict by July 20 in accordance with an agreement reached with Armenian officials in Strasbourg last month.
“I believe that our work with the Venice Commission must serve as the primary basis for accepting or not accepting proposals of [additional] changes,” Torosian told RFE/RL. “It is very important to receive the Venice Commission’s conclusions and if there will be more proposals [from the commission], they will be taken into account.”
“So let us wait for the conclusions and then listen to our opposition colleagues,” he said.
Under the Strasbourg agreement, the authorities in Yerevan have to add three major amendments to their constitutional package that would curtail sweeping powers enjoyed by the Armenian president. The Venice Commission secretary, Gianni Buquicchio, told RFE/RL on Monday that they seem to be honoring their commitments.
However, the leadership of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) bloc rejected the revised changes sent to Strasbourg, saying that they are not far-reaching enough. Shavarsh Kocharian, a senior Artarutyun legislator, insisted on Tuesday that those changes are still “flawed” despite being better than the original draft.
“Either those flaws must rectified or we will say, ‘It’s finished, we are out of this process and let the authorities solve their issues,’” he warned.
The other opposition group represented in parliament, the National Unity Party (AMK), has yet to react to the authorities’ revised draft. The AMK is expected to formulate a position on the issue after the return of its leader Artashes Geghamian from the United States later this week.
Both Artarutyun and the AMK have threatened to scuttle the passage of Kocharian’s constitutional amendments at the planned referendum this fall unless their demands are met.
(Photolur photo: Tigran Torosian.)