Underlining its differences with other major opposition parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) reaffirmed on Thursday its readiness, in principle, to endorse sweeping constitutional changes planned by President Serzh Sarkisian.
Still, Artsvik Minasian, a leading Dashnaktsutyun member, stressed that the endorsement is contingent on the acceptance a number of concrete proposals which the party will submit next month to a presidential commission working on the constitutional reform.
“If our demands are not fulfilled, then for us those constitutional changes will not be worth a penny,” he warned at a news conference.
In Minasian’s words, Dashnaktsutyun is specifically seeking constitutional provisions that would guarantee the independence of election commissions and introduce other safeguards against vote rigging. The party, which was a junior partner in President Serzh Sarkisian’s governing coalition until 2009, also wants parliamentary elections in Armenia to be held only on a party-list basis.
By contrast, the three other parliamentary parties at odds with Sarkisian have rejected the planned reform out of hand. They say that the main purpose of amending the Armenian constitutional is to enable Sarkisian to stay in power in another capacity after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.
Minasian disagreed with this stance, arguing that the commission set up by the president last year has still not drafted any amendments. “With the content of constitutional changes not yet clear, what are we against?” he asked. He insisted that the Armenian opposition can have a “real influence” on the drafting of the amendments before they are put on a nationwide referendum.
The commission headed by the chairman of Armenia’s constitutional court, Gagik Harutiunian, released in April a preliminary “concept” of the reform. Most of its members appear to advocate Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic with a powerful prime minister.