A senior representative of the ruling Republican Party (HHK) expressed confidence on Friday that Armenians will overwhelmingly back President Serzh Sarkisian’s sweeping constitutional changes in next month’s referendum.
“Naturally, I am sure that the people will say Yes,” said Vahram Baghdasarian, the leader of the HHK’s parliamentary faction. “You should ask the ‘No’ camp where it will find itself [after the December 6 referendum.]”
The upbeat statement came amid mounting opposition allegations that the Armenian authorities are preparing a massive vote-rigging operation to ensure the country’s transition to the parliamentary system of government envisaged by the draft amendments. Opposition groups are particularly vocal about the HHK’s reported use of its government levers aimed at securing a “Yes” vote in the referendum.
The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), the key member of the “No” campaign, claimed on Friday that the violations reflect a lack of popular support for the constitutional reform. “I think the authorities will find themselves in a very difficult situation because it is already evident that the people reject the authorities, reject the constitutional changes,” Zurabian told a news conference.
“You all know that a ‘No’ vote has already won … If the referendum is free and fair, the authorities won’t get even 10 percent of the vote,” he said.
Baghdasarian shrugged off Zurabian’s claim. “That is his childhood dream,” he told reporters.
The reform proponents and opponents have failed to pull large crowds in their nationwide meetings with voters held so far. Neither Sarkisian nor the HAK’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, has participated in those gatherings.
In Baghdasarian’s words, the Armenian president will discuss his amendments in detail in a televised interview which he will give on the eve of the referendum.
Sarkisian has already denied opposition claims that the main aim of the reform is to enable him to stay in power after his second and final presidential term ends in 2018. He has pledged not to become prime minister or parliament speaker if Armenia does become a parliamentary republic.