Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian on Thursday appealed to President Serzh Sarkisian to freeze his controversial constitutional reform, citing new security risks facing Armenia as a result of mounting tensions in the Middle East.
In an article posted on Ilur.am, Ter-Petrosian said that Sarkisian will trigger a domestic “serious upheaval” and thus undermine Armenia’s ability to confront those challenges if he pushes through his constitutional amendments “at any cost.” The leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) claimed that they cannot be enacted without a falsification of the December 6 referendum on Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government.
“I am convinced that within Armenia’s government system Serzh Sarkisian is probably the only individual who is conscious of the dangers emanating from the current geopolitical situation around our country,” he wrote.
“For that reason, I still hope that he may yet suspend the process of adopting the new constitution or, if that is not possible anymore, at least abandon plans to falsify the referendum results at any cost and to thereby deepen the gap between his regime and the society,” he said.
Ter-Petrosian’s HAK and other opposition groups maintain that the main purpose of the reform is to allow Sarkisian to retain the reins of power after the end of his second and final presidential term in 2018. They have been urging Armenians to vote against the proposed amendments in their ongoing meetings with voters across the country.
The HAK and its opposition allies have failed to attract large numbers of people to their referendum campaign rallies held in Yerevan so far. This might explain why Ter-Petrosian did not address or attend any of those rallies.
In his latest statement, the HAK leader, who served as Armenia’s first president from 1991-1998, reiterated the opposition claims that the constitutional changes are designed to ensure a “reproduction” of the ruling regime. But he put the emphasis on external factors which he said are making their enactment particularly dangerous for Armenia.
Pointing to Russia’s military intervention in Syria, Ter-Petrosian said the world is entering a “new period of the Cold War” that will increasingly center on the Middle East. Russia, he said, will now be keenly interested in a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in order to cement its positions in the wider region. Armenia will need “complete national unity” if it is to get a favorable peace deal with Azerbaijan, added the ex-president.
Sarkisian has repeatedly rejected, through his political allies, the opposition claims that the constitutional reform would only serve his vested interests. He has said that he will not seek to become prime minister or parliament speaker in 2018.
Senior members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) say that the parliamentary system would decentralize power in the country and foster its democratization. They also claim that most Armenians will back the amendments in the upcoming referendum.