By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The leading factions in the Armenian parliament announced on Monday an agreement ending a legal deadlock that has delayed long-awaited debates on conflicting proposals to amend the country’s constitution. The pro-government majority and a coalition of opposition parties, which advocate differing versions of constitutional reform, said the discussions will get underway on Tuesday under a procedure agreed by them.
An angry wrangling between them thwarted on February 19 a debate on a bill submitted by six opposition parties. The latter sought special rules that would give them additional time to make their case for Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic. But leaders of the pro-government Miasnutyun faction insisted on a shorter time frame within which most bills are debated in the National Assembly.
The deal announced by leaders of the two rival camps largely meets opposition demands. It is widely expected to be formally approved by the majority of legislators on Tuesday.
An alternative constitution drafted by the opposition will be debated first. The debates are likely to take several weeks and will be followed by similar discussions of a constitutional amendment package submitted by President Robert Kocharian.
The changes proposed by Kocharian would somewhat curtail sweeping presidential powers but would not alter the existing government system. The opposition wants them to be put on a nationwide referendum along with their proposals.
Kocharian has rejected that option. He admitted recently that his amendments would not be backed by the majority of voters in that case.