The expert commission drafting constitutional amendments has released eight more chapters of the new Constitution that implies Armenia’s switch to a parliamentary form of government.
Chapters 8-15 concern prosecutors and investigators, the ombudsman, the Central Election Commission, the Audit Chamber and some other institutions.
The first seven chapters publicized by the commission earlier mostly concerned the formation of different branches of power. They drew criticism from leading Armenian opposition parties as well as the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission that highlighted two controversial aspects: the parliamentary elections mechanism envisaging a so-called second round of vote to ensure a “stable majority” in parliament, as well as the order of appointing judges that critics say may affect the independence of the judiciary.
According to the new draft chapters posted on the official website of the Ministry of Justice, the rules of forming the Central Election Commission (CEC) are completely changed. It is suggested that all seven members of the CEC, including its head, be elected by the National Assembly, whereas now all seven members are appointed by the president. According to the published draft, the parliament will also have the right to terminate the powers of CEC members.
According to the draft Constitution, the prosecutor-general shall also be appointed and dismissed by the Parliament. Under the current Constitution, the president proposes to the Parliament a candidate for the post of the prosecutor-general, as well as raises the issue of his or her dismissal from office.
In contrast to the current Constitution, the head of the Audit Chamber and six other members of the body will be elected by the Parliament for a period of six years. Now the head of the Audit Chamber is nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly. The same amendment is proposed also in the case of electing the Central Bank governor.
Under the new draft Constitution, the largely ceremonial president also gets deprived of the right to appoint members of the National Commission on Television and Radio. It is proposed that all seven members of the Commission be elected by the Parliament, whereas today half of them are appointed by the president.
Under the current Constitution, the president or the parliament can initiate constitutional amendments. Now this right is reserved to at least one third of the total number of deputies, to the government or to 200,000 citizens who have the right to vote. The Parliament, however, must approve the draft resolution on the referendum.
The constitutional reform commission also announced that it will soon publish the transitional provisions of the draft Constitution thus presenting the full version of the new Basic Law.
The constitutional package will need to be formally endorsed by President Serzh Sarkisian before it can be sent to the Parliament for approval. Armenian lawmakers are expected to start debating it in September. The Sarkisian administration is expected to put the amendments on a referendum later this year or early next.
Most Armenian opposition parties are categorically against the proposed switch to the parliamentary republic. They maintain that Sarkisian is keen to stay in power in another capacity after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.
At least two such parties, the Armenian National Congress and Heritage, have signaled their intention to try to scuttle the constitutional reform with street protests.