Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian on Friday sounded a note of caution over sweeping constitutional changes that are apparently planned by Armenia’s political leadership.
Abrahamian insisted that President Serzh Sarkisian and senior members of his Republican Party (HHK) have not yet discussed Armenia’s possible transformation into a parliamentary republic led by a powerful prime minister.
Such a transition would enable Sarkisian to stay in power after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018. Davit Harutiunian, another senior lawmaker and HHK figure, did not rule out this scenario as he revealed the government plans for constitutional reform earlier this week.
Abrahamian claimed that Harutiunian’s comments were not correctly interpreted by the Armenian media. “There have been no discussions of a possible switch from the presidential to parliamentary republic,” he told reporters in the southern town of Armavir.
The influential speaker, who is seen by commentators as one of Sarkisian’s potential successors as president, said that the existing constitutional system, which gives the head of state sweeping powers, will not necessarily change as a result of the reform. “We need to discuss that. But in my view, the existing model works quite well,” he said.
Abrahamian further announced that Sarkisian has already set up a commission tasked with drafting amendments to the Armenian constitution. He said it is headed by the chairman of the Constitutional Court, Gagik Harutiunian, but did not name other members of the body. “It will seek proposals from civic organizations and political forces and discuss every issue,” he added.
Sarkisian’s office has made no announcements to that effect so far.
Most of Armenia’s leading opposition forces have until now advocated the parliamentary form of governance. They have yet to react to the idea of such a change mooted by the Sarkisian administration.