Armenia’s leadership has succeeded in mustering broad-based political support for far-reaching constitutional changes planned by it, a leading member of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) claimed on Monday.
“Four or five days ago I was saying that we are on a path to consensus. But I can say today that this consensus has already been reached,” Vahram Baghdasarian, who leads the HHK’s parliamentary faction, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Baghdasarian pointed to ongoing parliamentary debates on the package of amendments to Armenia’s constitution drafted by a presidential commission. He expressed confidence that the vast majority of lawmakers representing not only the pro-government majority but also opposition parties will vote to endorse the amendments next week.
“Gradually they have realized that if they refuse to participate in the reform process they will lose their place in the political stage,” Baghdasarian said, referring to those parties.
In particular, the proposed constitutional reform is backed by two major parties that claim to be in opposition to the Sarkisian administration: Dashnaktsutyun and Prosperous Armenia (BHK). The latter fiercely opposed it as recently as in February, threatening to topple Sarkisian if he pressed ahead with the changes envisaging Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government. The BHK effectively stopped challenging the government after its leader, Gagik Tsarukian, was forced to quit politics in March.
The constitutional package may also be backed by Orinats Yerkir, another nominally opposition party represented in the National Assembly. One of its leaders, Hovannes Markarian, indicated on Monday that Orinats Yerkir will endorse the draft amendments if the Sarkisian administration accepts a set of proposals submitted by it.
Only two parliamentary opposition parties, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun, remain adamant in rejecting the reform and insisting that it is aimed at keeping Sarkisian in power after the end of his second and final presidential term in 2018.
The HAK and Zharangutyun have teamed up with over two dozen smaller groups in an effort to scuttle the controversial changes that will be put on a referendum later this year. Their No Front coalition rallied supporters in Gyumri on Friday and is scheduled to hold a similar demonstration in Yerevan on October 2.
“There is no other means of pressure on those [government] demagogues,” Aram Manukian, an HAK leader, said of the protests. “Only the people can foil their grandiose plans.”