A recently formed pressure group critical of the Armenian authorities pledged on Monday to campaign against controversial constitutional changes sought by President Serzh Sarkisian with rallies and acts of “civil disobedience.”
A leader of the pressure group called You Wont’s Pass It said it plans to step up its activities next month and is ready to join forces with opposition parties resisting the planned reform.
“At this stage we need to generate a broad-based political and social mobilization,” Arshak Musakhanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We see strong chances of doing that.”
Echoing opposition allegations, Musakhanian claimed that a package of amendments to the Armenian constitution drafted by a presidential commission last month is primarily aimed at enabling Sarkisian to stay in power after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018. The young activist dismissed Sarkisian’s assurances that he will not seek to become prime minister or parliament speaker if Armenia switches to a parliamentary system of government in accordance with the proposed amendments.
“First of all, he has reneged on many of his promises,” said Musakhanian. “So we don’t trust him. And when we look at this [proposed] constitution, we realize that in all likelihood he has set his sights on the post of National Assembly speaker.”
The presidential commission and Sarkisian’s political allies say that the parliamentary system would decentralize power and thereby facilitate Armenia’s democratization.
But most of the country’s leading opposition forces are unconvinced by these arguments, seeing ulterior motives behind the reform push. Two of them, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun (Heritage), have pledged to turn a forthcoming referendum on the draft amendments into a popular vote of no confidence in Sarkisian. The HAK last month called on the country’s opposition and civic groups to join forces in that endeavor.
Musakhanian said You Won’t Pass It leaders, most of them youth activists, have already held talks with representatives of the HAK and the Founding Parliament, a smaller and more radical opposition movement. He said they reached “some understandings” on jointly fighting against the constitutional changes.