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Major Party Backs Constitutional Changes


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (R) meets with leaders of the Prosperous Armenia Party to discuss constitutional reform, 26August, 2015

Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (R) meets with leaders of the Prosperous Armenia Party to discuss constitutional reform, 26August, 2015

Just months after threatening street protests against President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional reform, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) endorsed on Friday far-reaching amendments drafted by his administration.

Deputies representing the party until recently headed by businessman Gagik Tsarukian made clear that they will vote for the proposed amendments at the end of heated debates in the Armenian parliament.

“As a result of our discussions with the president of the republic and members of the presidential commission on constitutional reforms, we realized that our people should go down this path,” said Mikael Melkumian, a BHK leader. “We have to reach consensus, and the BHK stands for this variant of the constitution.”

As recently as in February, the BHK and Tsarukian in particular fiercely opposed the reform drive jointly with more radical opposition forces. Tsarukian organized a special conference for that purpose on February 5. He threatened to topple Sarkisian with street protests if the latter presses ahead with the controversial changes envisaging Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government.

Sarkisian hit back hard a week later, lashing out at Tsarukian and ordering a government crackdown of his numerous businesses. The tycoon close to former President Robert Kocharian initially resisted the onslaught, calling Sarkisian’s ouster “the greatest cause of my life.” But he caved in shortly afterwards, resigning as BHK chairman and ending his political activities altogether.

The BHK has since significantly toned down its criticism of Sarkisian, while claiming to remain in opposition to his administration. Its opposition credentials are increasingly questioned by Armenian observers.

The constitutional reform is also supported by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), another parliament party which claims to be in opposition to Sarkisian. Two other opposition forces, the Armenian National Congress and Zharangutyun, remain adamant in rejecting it as a plot to prolong Sarkisian’s rule.

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