Armenia will press on with political reform even if a weekend constitutional referendum is derailed by a threatened opposition boycott, President Robert Kocharian said on Tuesday.
Armenians will on Sunday vote on amending the constitution of the small Caucasus nation. Western powers back the proposals, saying they will help bring its political system and judiciary into line with international democratic standards. But with the opposition calling on its supporters to boycott the vote, there is a risk turnout will fall below the threshold for the referendum to be ruled legitimate.
"We will continue with reforms whether the referendum succeeds or not. Life will go on," Kocharian said. "I hope that we will get a positive result in the referendum ... as that would increase our chances for integration into Europe," he told a news conference during visit to Slovenia.
The amendments include reform of the judicial system, local government reform, the introduction of an independent ombudsman and the establishment of an independent broadcasting watchdog. The opposition objects to provisions such as providing immunity for the president and giving parliament the power to set the country's borders. The referendum can only succeed if more than 50 percent of the votes cast back the amendments, provided that is not less than one third of all people eligible to vote. Similar proposals were rejected in a 2003 referendum. On that occasion, opposition parties said the package of proposed reforms did not go far enough.
Kocharian also said that he expects to meet Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliev at the end of January to discuss the dispute between the neighboring states over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.