Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian dismissed at the weekend sweeping constitutional changes planned by Armenia’s leadership, saying that his recently formed political group will not even discuss them with President Serzh Sarkisian.
Pashinian echoed critics’ claims that the constitutional reform is primarily aimed at prolonging Sarkisian’s rule. “Discussing one or another constitutional model means discussing one or another scenario of the reproduction of Serzh Sarkisian’s regime,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatututyun.am).
Pashinian also disagreed with those opposition groups who support the reform in principle because it envisages Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic with a more powerful prime minister. He disputed their arguments that the parliamentary system of governance would facilitate the country’s democratization.
“If there is an institutional opposition in the country, then it can carry out regime change under both presidential and parliamentary systems and under any constitution,” insisted Pashinian.
The switch to the parliamentary republic is the key element of a constitutional “concept” put forward by an ad hoc commission formed by Sarkisian in 2013. The president formally approved the reform framework earlier this month after holding a series of consultations with virtually all opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament. Those parties have expressed readiness to back the planned constitutional amendments if Sarkisian meets a number of conditions set by them.
By contrast, the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian is categorically against amending the constitution. Ter-Petrosian and his allies claim that Sarkisian only wants to stay in power in a different capacity after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.
Pashinian, who used to be affiliated with the HAK, said that his Civic Contract movement too will steer clear of any talks with Sarkisian on the constitution.
Pashinian, who fell out with Ter-Petrosian in 2012, set up Civic Contract in late 2013 with the stated aim of achieving “regime change” and democratizing Armenia. Most members of its governing board are young civic activists who were not affiliated with any political parties in the past. Pashinian and his associates have been touring Armenia in an effort to recruit more activists and set up regional branches.
The 39-year-old oppositionist, who is popular among many disgruntled Armenians, confirmed on Sunday that Civic Contract is in the process of becoming a political party. He also said that the group plans to participate in Armenia’s next parliamentary and presidential elections due in 2017 and 2018 respectively.