By Hrach Melkumian
President Robert Kocharian and leaders of the three parties represented in his government were meeting late on Wednesday to discuss an opposition offer of a compromise agreement on amending the Armenian constitution.
The meeting was expected to clarify whether Kocharian and his governing coalition are ready to agree to further curbs on presidential authority sought by the Armenia’s two main opposition groups. Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian is scheduled to host on Thursday a similar meeting with leaders of all parliament factions.
The proposed changes include giving parliament a greater role in the formation of the government, restricting the president’s right to appoint judges and making the mayor of Yerevan an elected official. The Artarutyun alliance and the National Unity Party (AMK) announced on January 19 that they will endorse Kocharian’s constitutional reform if the three proposals are incorporated into a package of draft amendments which is due to be put to a referendum later this year.
The opposition offer drew a mostly positive reaction from one of the coalition parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). But representatives of Dashnaktsutyun’s coalition partners, the Republican and Orinats Yerkir parties, have been more vague on the subject.
A senior Republican, Tigran Torosian, said the opposition amendments are “noteworthy” and deserve “serious discussion,” but complained they amounted to an ultimatum. “I think that this style is not right, especially when it comes to discussing such issues,” he told RFE/RL shortly before the meeting with Kocharian.
The opposition proposals are largely in tune with recommendations of the so-called Venice Commission of the Council of Europe that monitors legal reform in Armenia and other members of the human rights organization. "More significant amendments, especially with respect to the key issue of the balance of powers between the state organs, are necessary," the commission concluded last December in a written assessment of Kocharian’s constitutional amendments.
According to Victor Dallakian, an Artarutyun leader, the deal suggested by the opposition is non-negotiable. “There can be no compromise on this issue,” Dallakian told RFE/RL.
“We expect to receive a written response [from the presidential camp] before tomorrow’s meeting of the Artarutyun board,” he said. “Our further steps will depend on that.”
“If we receive a positive response after the [Kocharian-coalition] meeting to the effect that the governing coalition accepted our proposals, it will make sense to participate in the process,” confirmed Koryun Arakelian, a senior AMK member. “If not, we will not participate.”