President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday sought to underline the significance of his controversial constitutional changes, saying that they will democratize Armenia and encourage his administration to improve governance and the rule of law.
Addressing scores of government officials, lawmakers and senior judges, Sarkisian again declined to clarify whether he will seek to stay in power after serving out his second and final presidential term in April 2018. Nor did he mention his upcoming power-sharing arrangement with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
“I am confident that as a result of the constitutional changes Armenia’s political system will become more open, flexible and sophisticated,” he said in an extensive speech. “It will correspond to the social structure of our dynamically and comprehensively developing society.”
Sarkisian referred to the parliamentary system of government which is envisaged by the reform enacted as a result of the disputed December 6 referendum. Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic is due to be completed by April 2018.
“We must achieve social solidarity within the country,” he said. “Socioeconomic issues are closely connected with justice, and we must substantially accelerate the process of establishing justice in social relationships.”
“We must create a social environment where there will be no privileged individuals,” he declared.
For that purpose, Sarkisian went on, the Armenian authorities should hold democratic elections, step up the fight against corruption, increase judicial independence and create a level playing field for businesses. “We must give new impetus to our movement along this path,” he said.
“So let us implement our [amended] constitution,” concluded the president.
Sarkisian’s political opponents are bound to shrug off these promises. They have said all along that the main purpose of the sweeping constitutional amendments is to enable him to officially or unofficially extend his rule beyond 2018. They also say claim the “falsification” of the referendum results showed that the ruling regime is not interested in democratization.
Sarkisian and his political allies have denied the opposition claims. Still, speaking on the eve of the referendum, the president pointedly declined to reaffirm his earlier pledges not to become prime minister or parliament speaker if Armenia does switch to the parliamentary system. He shed no light on his political future on Friday.
Sarkisian delivered the speech two days after the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) announced that he has reached a “preliminary agreement” on a new coalition deal with Dashnaktsutyun. The latter is expected to receive two or three ministerial posts as a result.
An HHK spokesman said on Wednesday that the deal will be finalized by the end of this week. Sarkisian said nothing about it in his speech.