The Armenian authorities insist that they have not already decided to change the country’s constitutional order in a way that could enable President Serzh Sarkisian to extend his rule beyond 2018.
The Sarkisian administration fueled such speculation late last month when it announced plans to amend the Armenian constitution. A senior pro-presidential lawmaker, Davit Harutiunian, said the authorities are specifically considering turning Armenia into a parliamentary republic. In that context, he did not rule out the possibility of Sarkisian becoming prime minister after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) sought to cool talk of such radical transformation after a late-night meeting on Thursday of its Supreme Board headed by Sarkisian. “A switch to the parliamentary form of governance is not on our agenda,” HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov told reporters. “This means that the existing system of governance is satisfactory.”
Justice Minister Hrayr Tovmasian made similar assurances on Friday. He said a presidential commission tasked with drafting constitutional amendments will consider different variants of constitutional reform.
The main aim of the authorities is to address “ambiguities” in Armenia’s constitution adopted in 1995 and amended in 2005, Tovmasian told a news conference. He did not specify which concrete constitutional clauses require changes or clarifications.
Sarkisian set up the commission on Wednesday. It is headed by the chairman of the Constitutional Court, Gagik Harutiunian, and comprises eight other members, including Tovmasian.
The commission has until next April to come up with a “concept” for the reform. It will then have to draft amendments within the next ten months.