Leaders of several opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament objected on Monday to controversial constitutional changes planned by President Serzh Sarkisian at a meeting with the European Union’s top official, it emerged on Tuesday.
Donald Tusk, the European Council president, met them during a visit to Yerevan that also involved talks with Sarkisian and Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian. According to Armen Martirosian, a leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, the planned constitutional reform was the main theme of the oppositionists’ discussion with Tusk.
Martirosian said top representatives of Zharangutyun, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Orinats Yerkir parties reaffirmed their opposition to Armenia’s transition to a parliamentary system of government envisaged by the reform. “Virtually all of us seemed to have the same approach and the same concerns,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“We explained that [the authorities] are basically trying to circumvent the constitutional ban on a third presidential term and that Serzh Sarkisian wants to … create a political system in Armenia that is very similar to the Soviet system,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman.
The idea of transforming Armenia into a parliamentary republic is supported in principle by another parliamentary opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). But one of its senior members, Lilit Galstian, stressed on Tuesday that the party has not yet endorsed a package of draft constitutional amendments that was publicized by a presidential commission last week.
The issue was also reportedly on the agenda of Tusk’s meeting with Sarkisian. According to the Armenian presidential press office, the former Polish prime minister said he is “happy that a process of constitutional reforms has been initiated in Armenia.”
Tusk did not mention the issue at a joint news conference with Sarkisian. He said only that the EU will continue to support democratic reforms in Armenia.
The EU has not yet officially reacted to the sweeping changes sought by the Armenian leadership.