By Ruzanna Stepanian
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe hopes for the success of the Armenian authorities’ efforts to reform the controversial post-Soviet constitution, the head of its Yerevan office said on Friday.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin also urged the Armenian opposition not to scuttle the reform and suggested that its leaders can not use the upcoming constitutional referendum to topple the ruling regime.
Echoing statements by U.S. and European Union diplomats, Pryakhin claimed that the passage of President Robert Kocharian’s draft amendments at the November referendum would mean a “step forward in Armenia’s democratization.” “This doesn’t mean that we are satisfied with all draft amendments,” he said. “Not all of our proposals were taken into account.”
The OSCE official singled out the Armenian authorities’ apparent reluctance to accept more far-reaching changes in the formation of bodies that regulate broadcasting and are currently controlled by Kocharian. The relevant constitutional changes proposed by them have been dismissed as cosmetic by Armenia’s leading journalist associations and the human rights ombudsman.
Pryakhin said opposition leaders and other critics of the revised constitutional draft can still achieve further improvements in it. He admitted that opposition support will be crucial for the popular approval of the proposed changes. “If the opposition urges its supporters to vote against or boycott the referendum that will have diametrically opposite effects: the amendments won’t be accepted and we will continue to have the 1995 constitution that doesn’t meet the current needs of the nation,” he said.
Armenia’s two main opposition groups are divided on the issue. The National Unity Party of Artashes Geghamian leaning towards supporting Kocharian’s draft, while the more influential Artarutyun (Justice) bloc is demanding more serious curbs on the sweeping presidential powers.
Artarutyun’s most radical faction, the Hanrapetutyun party, will oppose the reform in any case. Its leaders hope to exploit the referendum as well as local elections scheduled for October for a planned campaign of fresh anti-Kocharian demonstrations.
But Pryakhin, who was a Russian diplomat before taking over the OSCE mission in Yerevan, cast doubt on the opposition’s ability to spark an anti-government uprising. “The overwhelming majority [of Armenians] are not sure that the forces that may come to power will make them better off,” he said. “Therefore there is no revolutionary situation in the country in the classical sense of the term.”