President Serzh Sarkisian set up on Wednesday an ad hoc commission tasked with drafting constitutional amendments which some of his allies say could keep him in power after he completes his second and final term in 2018.
Sarkisian’s press office said that the commission will be headed by Gagik Harutiunian, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, and comprise eight other members. Almost all of them are government officials and other presidential loyalists. They include Davit Harutiunian, the pro-government chairman of a key Armenian parliament committee (no relation to Gagik).
Davit Harutiunian revealed last week that Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic led by a powerful prime minister is one of the variants of constitutional reform currently discussed by the country’s political leadership. He pointedly declined to rule out the possibility of Sarkisian becoming prime minister in case of the radical change of Armenia’s existing presidential system.
The Armenian constitution, which was adopted in 1995 and amended in 2005, gives sweeping powers to the president of the republic, making him by far the most powerful official in the country.
The constitution also bars Sarkisian from seeking a third five-year term in office in 2018. Citing unnamed HHK sources, the Yerevan newspaper “168 Zham” reported late last month that Sarkisian would like to extend his rule beyond that time frame.
The president has not yet publicly commented on constitutional reform. A statement issued by his press office on Wednesday cited the need for a “full-fledged balancing” of government branches, improved governance and a stronger protection of human rights.
According to the statement, the “specialist commission” will have to come up with a “concept” of the reform by next April. It will have ten months to draft specific constitutional amendments after that concept is approved by the head of state.