Armenia will risk political turmoil and even “bloodshed” if President Serzh Sarkisian fails to drum up greater support for a radical constitutional reform, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) warned on Tuesday.
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, again defended his opposition party’s decision to back, in principle, sweeping amendments to the Armenian constitution planned by Sarkisian. He urged other major opposition forces to do the same.
Rustamian spoke as he unveiled Dashnaktsutyun’s written proposals regarding a reform “concept” that was drawn up by a presidential commission in October. In particular, they envisage Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic and the conduct of parliamentary elections only on a party-list basis.
The reform framework submitted to Sarkisian also advocates a switch to the parliamentary system of governance that would come at the expense of sweeping powers enjoyed by the president of the republic. But unlike Dashnaktsutyun, it does not call for all seats in the Armenian parliament to be distributed only under the system of proportional representation.
Dashnaktsutyun has made clear that it will urge Armenians to vote for the reform in a referendum if its proposals are accepted by Sarkisian. Rustamian was asked at a news conference what the party will do if its upcoming talks with the government do not yield an agreement.
“If talks fail then the country will also get in trouble,” he said. “There is no other solution today. The alternatives are uncertainty, unpredictable developments, standoffs and even bloodshed.”
By contrast, the other major opposition parties have rejected the reform out of hand. They say that it is aimed at enabling Sarkisian to stay in power in a different capacity after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.
“I don’t see such a possibility if what we are proposing is put into practice,” insisted Rustamian. He said the parliamentary republic would be a major safeguard against vote rigging and other undemocratic practices.
Sarkisian was due to decide last fall whether to formally approve the reform “concept” and instruct the commission headed by Constitutional Court Chairman Gagik Harutiunian to start drafting specific amendments. But he effectively delayed the decision until March 2015.
Some observers attributed the delay to a series of anti-government rallies jointly held by the opposition Armenian National Congress, the Prosperous Armenia and Zharangutyun parties. The scrapping of the reform plans has been one of their key demands.