About three dozen opposition parties, civic groups and other non-governmental organizations pledged at the weekend to jointly fight against sweeping amendments to Armenia’s constitution sought by President Serzh Sarkisian.
They stood by their claims that Sarkisian is keen to circumvent a constitutional ban on a third presidential term by expediting the country’s transition to the parliamentary system of government.
“We are calling on citizens of the Republic of Armenia and all political and social groups to join in the struggle unfolding in the country,” read a joint declaration adopted by their leaders during a conference held in Yerevan. It said their “No Front” alliance will strive to mount “popular resistance” to the controversial constitutional reform.
The alliance comprises two of the opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament: Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage). Its establishment was initiated by the You Won’t Pass It pressure group which was set up recently with the specific aim of scuttling the constitutional changes expected to be put on a referendum later this year.
Armen Grigorian, the You Won’s Pass It leader, said the “No Front” will hold nationwide rallies as part of its campaign. But neither he nor other leaders of the new alliance went into details of that campaign.
“We will do everything to ensure that this constitutional draft reinforcing Serzh Sarkisian’s dictatorship does not pass,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman. “It won’t be a constitutional referendum. It will be a referendum about whether or not Serzh Sarkisian should stay on as Armenia’s dictator.”
Armen Martirosian, a Zharangutyun leader, said that the No campaign will succeed only if Sarkisian is forced to resign. “Armenia’s problems cannot be solved without the ouster of the current illegitimate regime,” he said.
The Founding Parliament, a more radical opposition movement that also joined the grouping, likewise stressed the need to use the forthcoming referendum for a regime change drive.
Sarkisian has repeatedly stated that he will not become prime minister or hold any other state post after completing his second term in 2018 if Armenia’s becomes a parliamentary republic. Opponents of his constitutional reform dismiss these assurances.