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By Shakeh Avoyan
An opposition leader urging his supporters to opt out of the upcoming constitutional referendum thinks that a boycott is the only way to leave the door for new changes in the country’s basic law open.

Vazgen Manukian, whose National-Democratic Union (AZhM) did not join the opposition Artarutyun bloc’s recent decision to take part in the November 27 referendum and say ‘No’ to the coalition’s draft constitutional amendments, reiterated his and his party’s stance to boycott the referendum while speaking at the Azdak club on Friday.

Yet, he voiced his concerns that the referendum would again be rigged by the authorities.

“The most likely and terrible scenario is that the vote is rigged in favor of ‘Yes’. It will be a disaster for the country,” he said.

If, however, the constitutional amendments are adopted without riggings, Manukian says it will still not be a positive development, but will not be terrible, either.

“I don’t see anything terrible in people’s going voluntarily and backing the proposed amendments with their votes. Then we will live by this constitution. No one has the right to speak against people’s will.”

Meanwhile, in Manukian’s opinion, a ‘No’ in the referendum will mean that the door is only partially open for new changes.

“I don’t even understand how the ‘Yes’ campaigners are going to convince people to leave their homes in the morning, stand in a queue at the polling station only to be sent to court to restore their names in the voter list and cast a ‘Yes’ vote without even knowing what the new constitution will give them,” Manukian said.

Besides, according to Manukian, it is easier to control a boycott than ‘No’ votes, considering the widespread practice of rigging people’s ballots in Armenia.

“Our party has already submitted a list of about 2,000 people to the Central Electoral Commission who will control 1,865 precincts throughout the republic. We think this control must be exercised, though we are not sure how successful it will prove,” Manukian concluded.
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