President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday again defended Armenia’s ongoing transition to the parliamentary system of government, saying that it is making the country “freer and stronger.”
Sarkisian stressed the importance of the recent constitutional reform in a written address to the nation dedicated to Constitution Day. The public holiday marks the 21st anniversary of a disputed referendum on Armenia’s first post-Soviet constitution.
Sarkisian pushed through his sweeping constitutional changes in another referendum that was held last December. It too was denounced as fraudulent by the Armenian opposition.
“The recent constitutional reforms once again demonstrated the establishment of our sovereign and social state based on the rule of law and underlined its steady and progressive development,” Sarkisian said in his message.
“The amended constitution is making our society freer and stronger,” he said.
Armenian opposition parties that resisted the constitutional changes will strongly disagree with that assertion.
Commenting on the presidential statement, Zaruhi Postanjian, a senior member of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, accused Sarkisian of lying to Armenians. The Armenian constitution has always “remained on paper,” she claimed.
“We live in a country where there are political prisoners and where it’s impossible to change the government through elections,” Postanjian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The official rationale for Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic is to decentralize power and foster the country’s democratization. Opposition groups insist, however, that its main aim is to enable Sarkisian to stay in power after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.
Sarkisian sought to disprove the opposition claims two years ago when he declared that he will not seek to become prime minister in 2018 if Armenia does become a parliamentary republic. However, he pointedly declined to reaffirm that pledge on the eve of the December 2016 referendum.