Only one in three Armenians intend to vote for President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional amendments in next month’s referendum, a non-governmental polling organization said on Tuesday.
The pollster, APR Group, cited the findings of a nationwide opinion poll conducted by it in mid-November. It said 35 percent of some 1,300 respondents expressed readiness to back the proposed amendments, compared with 32 percent who said they are opposed to the country’s transition to the parliamentary system of government sought by Sarkisian.
According to APR Group, just over one-fifth of those polls were undecided, while another 10 refused to reveal their intentions regarding the December 6 referendum. Ruben Sargsian, the head of the group, which is not known have to government connections, suggested that the latter category of voters tends to oppose the government and its major initiatives.
“The undecided voters will likely stay at home [on referendum day] or vote ‘Yes,’” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). They therefore hold the key to the outcome of the referendum, he said.
To pass, the amendments will have to be approved by the majority of referendum participants making up at least one-quarter of Armenia’s 2.5 million or so eligible voters. Sarkisian and his political allies will thus need to garner at least 620,000 “Yes” votes.
Senior members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have expressed confidence that the sweeping amendments will be overwhelmingly backed by voters. They say most Armenians are already convinced that the proposed switch to the parliamentary system would make their country more democratic.
Opposition forces campaigning against the constitutional reform claim the opposite, however. They allege that the Yes camp plans to rig the referendum by capitalizing on its government levers and control of election commissions that will hold the vote. The No Front coalition of reform opponents has called for a high voter turnout in the referendum, saying that would seriously complicate fraud.
The opposition maintains that the sole purpose of the reform is to enable Sarkisian to retain power in a different capacity after he completes his second and final presidential term in 2018.