Authorities in Yerevan have confirmed plans to make changes in the constitutional requirements concerning the eligibility of nominees to run for president. But they deny the proposed reform is tailored to any specific election needs.
David Harutiunian, a ruling Republican Party lawmaker and member of the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC), has confirmed to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the package of proposals sent to the Commission from the presidential administration also concerns the current norms under which an eligible presidential candidate must be a citizen and permanent resident of the country for at least 10 years preceding his or her nomination.
He said, however, that this reform stems from the 2011 joint proposals of the Venice Commission and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) concerning reforms of Armenia’s Election Code.
Harutiunian explained that still two years ago the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR suggested that the requirements for presidential hopefuls to have 10-year permanent residence and citizenship of Armenia be reconsidered as they found it to be “disproportionate”.
Since the revision can be done only by amending the Constitution, President Serzh Sarkisian’s chief of staff Vigen Sarkisian (no relation to the president) recommended that the CRC discuss this matter, said the lawmaker.
Harutiunian denied any internal political considerations behind the move. “No, there isn’t any domestic political issue involved,” he emphasized. “I recommend that you read the joint findings of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR regarding the Election Code adopted in 2011. And you will see that they raise this issue, and even realizing that the matter concerns a constitutional prohibition, they still point out that there should not be such a requirement according to the European standards.”
“Naturally, if there is a new European approach, we, of course, should reckon with this reality within the framework of the constitutional reforms,” added the CRC member.
According to Harutiunian, that does not mean that Armenia should accept this requirement “by 100 percent”. “But not making it a matter of discussion would be very strange,” he said.
At the same time, Harutiunian said that stating with confidence that the proposed revision will necessarily be endorsed by the CRC is also wrong.
Under the presidential decree issued in early September, the CRC is 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.