By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s government will not feel obliged to resign in the event of its failure to push through constitutional amendments at the upcoming referendum, one of its most influential members said on Wednesday.
Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian, also insisted that popular apathy toward the proposed constitutional reform is not as widespread as opinion polls and the media suggest.
“I want to assure all those people who don’t wish the authorities well that nothing will happen if we fail to … ensure the [necessary] voter turnout,” Abrahamian told RFE/RL. “If there are people who think that the authorities must resign if the referendum fails, they are badly wrong,” he added.
Armenia’s leading opposition forces hope to use the referendum, slated for November 27, for a fresh attempt at regime change. Opposition leaders say the rejection of the draft amendments to the Armenian constitution would mean a popular vote of no confidence in President Robert Kocharian and his administration.
However, Kocharian’s top allies reject any linkage between their legitimacy and the outcome of the vote. “I find talk of regime change inappropriate,” parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian said on Tuesday.
Abrahamian, who is widely regarded as Armenia’s unofficial deputy prime minister, disagreed with those who believe that few Armenians show interest in Kocharian’s package of amendments endorsed by Europe and the United States. “I am convinced that the turnout will be adequate,” he said. “We will do everything to get the people to participate and explain to the people by means of propaganda that the constitutional reform is very important for the country’s image and democratization.”
To pass, the amendments must be backed by at least one third of Armenia’s 2.4 million eligible voters. An opinion poll released last month suggested that only 13 percent of Yerevan residents will definitely take part in the referendum. Baghdasarian himself stated on September 12 that most Armenians “do not care” about the reform which is dismissed as insignificant by the opposition.
According to Abrahamian, although the authorities will do “a lot of work” to ensure a positive outcome of the referendum, they “can not force people to take part in it.”