Armenia’s prominent Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hayrikian, who currently heads an extra-parliamentary political party, has gone on an open-ended hunger strike in front of the Central Election Commission (CEC) building in Yerevan over what he described as “anti-constitutional” behavior of the body.
Hayrikian, the chairman of the Union for National Self-Determination and a former presidential candidate, claims the CEC acted against the amended Constitution by refusing to provide him with the necessary documents for the start of a signature collection campaign for a constitutional reform.
Article 202 of Armenia’s new Constitution adopted in a 2015 referendum, in particular, entitles at least 200,000 citizens that are eligible voters to initiate the adoption of a new or amendments to the existing Constitution.
“We received a strange reply, which shows that they either do not recognize the 2015 Constitutional referendum and therefore do not accept the new Constitution or challenge the legality of the new Constitution,” Hayrikian claimed.
Not all of the chapters and articles of the amended Constitution have been enforced yet. The article in question, according to transitional provisions, is due to take legal force when the newly elected president of Armenia assumes office next spring.
Still, Hayrikian insists on his right to start the collection of signatures based on the mentioned article of the Constitution even in the absence of proper legislation.
CEC Chairman Tigran Mukuchian explained to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) over the weekend that they did not provide Hayrikian with the documents necessary for the collection of signatures because the current law on referendums does not provide for such a procedure.
Hayrikian, who spent about 18 years in Soviet prison and was shot and wounded during his bid for the presidency in 2013, has for years sought changes in Armenia’s Constitution that he says will enable the country to switch to “absolute democracy” in which “no vote of a citizen will be lost because of a faulty electoral system.”
This is not the first time Hayrikian goes on hunger strike as a means to support his political demands. The last time he resorted to this form of protest was in 2014 when after Armenia’s decision to join a Russian-led trade bloc Hayrikian went on a weeklong hunger strike demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and the transition of power to pro-European forces.