By Heghine Buniatian and Ruzanna Stepanian
Most of Armenia's 2.4 million eligible voters will take part in the November 27 constitutional referendum, a representative of leading pro-government parties campaigning for the passage of President Robert Kocharian’s draft amendments predicted on Friday.
Spartak Seyranian, the top spokesman for the “Yes” campaign headquarters, said he believes that Armenians are no longer apathetic about constitutional reform. “We have a sense that at least 50 to 60 percent of voters will definitely take part in the referendum,” he told RFE/RL.
A high voter turnout is vital for the success of the Western-backed reform. To pass, the amendments need to be backed by one third of the eligible voters. An opinion poll conducted in Yerevan in July suggested that only 13 percent of city residents would definitely participate in the referendum.
Seyranian said the first phase of the “Yes” campaign led by the three parties represented in Kocharian’s government has focused on raising public awareness of the issue and been a success. “Since copies of the constitutional draft have already been distributed through the regional and community administrations, we can consider the first stage to be over,” he said. “The second phase will combine information with propaganda. The final, third stage will naturally be a period of active propaganda.”
Also campaigning for the adoption of are 24 small pro-Kocharian parties not represented in the government. “Each of them is conducting its own campaign. Our task to organize a proper coordination of those efforts,” said Seyranian.
According to Seyranian, much of the work is being done by 80 “propagandists” from Yerevan that have been touring Armenia and urging people to vote for the proposed constitutional changes. The top leaders of the three governing parties are not among those campaigners though.
By contrast, leaders of Armenia’s main opposition parties rejecting the amendments have been personally involved in campaigning. The leaders of 17 such parties conducting a joint “No” campaign toured Friday the central Kotayk and Gegharkunik regions in a motorcade made up of several dozen cars.
“The fight is not for the constitution but the country’s future,” one of them, Vazgen Manukian, told a rally in the town of Sevan. He said the amendments must be rejected because “Armenia has become a feudal state ruled by several clans.”
Another prominent oppositionist, Aram Karapetian, said a “no” vote would mean a vote of no confidence in the ruling regime. “The united opposition is saying ‘no’ to Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian,” he said.
Karapetian warned that the opposition will urge supporters from around the country to take to the streets of Yerevan if the authorities rig the referendum. Manukian similarly warned of a popular “uprising” against the regime.