By Astghik Bedevian
A prominent opposition figure called the amended constitution to be put to a referendum next month ‘a half-step forward’, yet did not join his fellow oppositionists in their ‘no’ campaign.
Shavarsh Kocharian, leader of the National-Democratic Party (AZhK), opted out of Thursday’s vote of the opposition “Artarutyun” bloc on a joint decision of the opposition front in the November 27 referendum on constitutional amendments.
He clarified his position in a press conference at the parliament later today, stating if Armenia adopts such constitutional amendments it will mean that “our country will continue making half-steps forward and will not be strong enough to meet the challenges it is facing.”
Shavarsh Kocharian does not urge his supporters to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, nor does he call for a boycott of the referendum.
“We do not campaign for ‘yes’, because we find that the draft is not complete and contains shortcomings. But we do not campaign for ‘no’ either for the simple reason that this draft is better than the current one,” he said. “The world is much more colors than just black and white. The same concerns the contents of the constitution.”
Meanwhile, the newly set up campaign headquarters in support of the constitutional changes held their first meeting today to discuss strategies of winning the hearts of the public.
In particular, at their first meeting the pollsters discussed the issue of a print version of proposed constitutional amendments laid out in a way more intelligible for the public at large.
“Printing has already begun and we will start disseminating copies of the booklet among the public soon,” headquarters member Spartak Seyranian told RFE/RL.
In a related development the Agrarian University’s students and teaching staff today declared their “unanimous backing of the proposed constitutional reform”, with Rector Arshavir Tarverzian promised over 10,000 “for” votes (the number of university students and staff).
In his speech at the event that also gathered representatives of the three ruling parties, Tarverzian told students he had no party affiliation and that it was his civil position on the issue.
Meanwhile, RFE/RL learned from Samvel Nikoyan of the Republican Party of Armenia that Tarverzian’s brother is one of the most active members of the Republicans.