The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Wednesday that it will open around 2,000 campaign offices across the countryto help President Serzh Sarkisian enact his constitutional changes a through referendum next month.
The figure will roughly match the number of nationwide electoral precincts where Armenians will vote for or against the controversial changes on December 6. As many as 400 offices of the “Yes” campaign will be located in Yerevan alone.
Vahram Baghdasarian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, insisted that the planned vast network is not a further indication that Sarkisian and his political allies will heavily use their government levers to try to expedite Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government. He claimed that the authorities are committed to holding the referendum in a way that “will boost our country’s international standing.”
Opposition forces campaigning against the constitutional reform are certain to dismiss these assurances. They have already protested against the fact that the HHK’s “Yes” campaign is led by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and six other senior state officials acting as his deputies. They include the chief of Sarkisian’s staff.
Late last month, Abrahamian met with the governors of Armenia’s ten provinces and instructed them to set up Yes campaign offices in their respective communities. None of these officials will take a leave of absence during the referendum campaign.
“We have appointed people who have organizational experience and can organize the referendum in a proper way,” Baghdasarian said in this regard.
Baghdasarian revealed that the ruling party will also form many teams of “Yes” campaigners that will seek to raise public awareness of the proposed amendments to the Armenian constitution. “We do have a problem: the public is not sufficiently informed about what’s going on and what is being proposed to them,” he said.
The reform opponents say that the sole purpose of the amendments is to enable Sarkisian to retain the reins of power after the end of his second and final presidential term in 2018. HHK representatives dismiss these claims, pointing to Sarkisian’s pledges not to become prime minister or parliament speaker if Armenia is transformed into a parliamentary republic.