Despite recommendations from a Council of Europe advisory body the commission drafting constitutional amendments in Armenia is likely to keep the option of the so-called “second round” in parliamentary elections, a member said on Monday.
The provision aimed at ensuring the formation of a “stable majority” after legislative polls was criticized late last week by the Venice Commission that published its preliminary opinion on the proposed Armenian reform.
In chapters 1-7 of Armenia’s draft new Constitution published last month local constitutional law experts suggest turning Armenia into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial president. At the same time, one of the provisions dealing with the formation of the parliament suggests that if no party or bloc of parties can achieve an outright majority, a second round of elections should be held between the two parties or blocs of parties having the largest number of votes.
Authors of the new Constitution explain that this way a “stable” majority will always be assured, which will ensure the stable work of the government and eventually the stability of the political system as a whole.
Vardan Poghosian, a member of the Constitutional Reform Commission, said: “At this moment we haven’t changed it, and we are going to engage in serious discussions with the Venice Commission on this matter. But most importantly, perhaps, is that the Venice Commission has no substantive objections to the proposed solutions. Their proposal is only that it is stipulated in the Election Code, rather than in the Constitution.”
According to Poghosyan, however, the Commission finds it to be such an important matter that it should be outlined in the Constitution.
Referring to the Venice Commission’s reasoning that in Armenia, which is for the first time making a transition to a parliamentary system, there is no need to use the solutions that have been adopted in Italy, a country with a long-standing parliamentary system, only recently, Poghosian said that they want to avoid the problems that have occurred in these countries.
“Armenia cannot afford what Italy could afford to have for 50 years or what France could afford to have for nearly 100 years. We are in a very sensitive region, we have big security problems, and the issue of government stability must be solved,” the expert said.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s leading opposition parties continue to view the proposed changes to the Constitution as an attempt by President Serzh Sarkisian, whom the current Armenian constitution bars from seeking a third presidential term, to remain in power in some other capacity after completing his tenure in 2018.
Still in 2014, however, Sarkisian publicly pledged not to seek a top government post if the constitutional reform was carried out.
Members of the Sarkisian-led ruling Republican Party of Armenia insist that the proposed constitutional changes do not pursue any goals of “power reproduction”, but are aimed at ensuring the country’s further democratization.