By Armen Zakarian
Armenia’s largest opposition group, the Artarutyun alliance, insisted on Wednesday that it will not endorse President Robert Kocharian’s proposed constitutional amendments unless they envisage a more serious restriction of sweeping powers enjoyed by the head of state.
A senior member of the bloc, Shavarsh Kocharian, said it has set more conditions for urging opposition supporters to vote for a package of draft amendments at a referendum this November.
Artarutyun had earlier demanded three additional amendments that would give more powers to parliament, make Armenian courts less dependent on the president of the republic and provide for direct elections of Yerevan’s future mayors. According to Shavarsh Kocharian, it is now also demanding that Armenia’s provincial governors be elected as well and that the structure of the central government be set by the law, rather than by the president as is the case now.
Kocharian said even the acceptance of all these conditions would not mean an automatic endorsement of the reform by Artarutyun. “Even if they came up with the most brilliant draft, even if they put our draft to the referendum, we wouldn’t believe that there is an atmosphere of trust in Armenia which is conducive to a ‘yes vote,’” he told a news conference.
The oppositionist added that the creation of such an atmosphere requires, among other things, the punishment of individuals that committed vote irregularities in the 2003 presidential and parliamentary elections. He singled out Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian as “the number one organizer of vote falsifications and repressions.”
The Artarutyun leader said the latest opposition demands were conveyed to President Kocharian and the three parties represented in his government through Rene van der Linden, the president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) who visited Yerevan last week. Van der Linden urged the two rival camps to reach a compromise agreement on the issue. He warned that failure to amend the Armenian constitution at the November referendum would stall the country’s European integration.
The Armenian parliament is scheduled to meet on August 29 to discuss and approve the final version of constitutional changes that will be put to the national vote.
(Photolur photo: Shavarsh Kocharian.)