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Armenian Constitutional Reform ‘Good For Regime Change’


Armenia - Davit Harutiunian at a news conference in Yerevan, 12Sep2011.

Armenia - Davit Harutiunian at a news conference in Yerevan, 12Sep2011.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) will not control the majority of seats in the country’s next parliament if President Serzh Sarkisian succeeds in enacting his constitutional changes, a senior government official said on Friday.

Davit Harutiunian, the chief of the government staff, sought to disprove opposition allegations that Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government envisaged by those changes would help the HHK “perpetuate” its hold on power. He claimed that the constitutional reform would actually bode well for a “peaceful regime change.”

Harutiunian, who is also a senior HHK figure, argued that one of the draft amendments stipulates that Armenia’s next parliamentary elections will be held only on a party-list basis. “In none of the elections ever held in Armenia under the proportional representation system did the ruling party win more than 40 percent of the vote, no matter how much it was accused of using police methods, suppressing the opposition and so on,” he told a roundtable discussion in Yerevan.

“Therefore, frankly speaking, I don’t think that any single political party will manage to win a parliamentary majority,” if Armenia does become a parliamentary republic, he said.

Accordingly, Harutiunian went on, Armenia would be run by coalition governments in the future. “I consider non-coalition governments unlikely,” he said.

The HHK has long managed to control Armenia’s parliaments primarily thanks to its candidates’ strong performance in nationwide single-mandate constituencies where financial and administrative resources are particularly important. In the current National Assembly, 41 deputies were elected from those constituencies. The remaining 90 seats were contested in 2012 under the proportional system.

While abolishing the single-seat constituencies, the proposed constitutional amendments allow for the possibility of a run-off vote between the two top election contenders in case the first round of voting does not result in a “stable majority” in the parliament. Opposition critics of the reform say that this unusual arrangement is designed to make it easier for the HHK to retain control over the legislature.

Critics will also point out that other senior members of Sarkisian’s party have repeatedly stated that the HHK will continue to govern Armenia for many more years to come.

Harutiunian insisted, however, that the parliamentary system would on the contrary increase opposition parties’ chances of coming to power and that the latter should accept the sweeping changes sought by Sarkisian as a “basis for peaceful regime change.” “This [reform] is being done for one reason: he who doesn’t create a basis for peaceful regime change ends up facing violent regime change,” he said.

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