The government officially announced plans to amend Armenia’s constitution as part of its strategy of reforming the national judicial and electoral systems approved on Thursday.
The strategy drafted by the Armenian Justice Ministry calls for constitutional amendments relating to the work of judicial bodies and conduct of elections.
“The constitution contains a number of contentious provisions which we believe the constitutional commission should examine,” Deputy Justice Minister Rafik Grigorian said during a cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
In particular, Grigorian said, the constitution does not allow judges to appeal against decisions made by the Supreme Judicial Council, a state body overseeing courts. He said the government also wants to lower the vote threshold for winning seats in Armenia’s parliament and to make sure that Armenians vote only for parties and blocs, rather than individual candidates, in future general elections.
The constitutional amendments will be drafted by an ad hoc government commission that will be set up in the first quarter of next year. Members of the opposition parties represented in the National Assembly will be invited to join it.
The current Armenian constitution underwent sweeping changes as a result of a disputed referendum held in 2015. They led to the country’s transition from a presidential to parliamentary system of government.
Former President Serzh Sarkisian engineered that constitutional reform in an effort to hold on to power after completing his second and final presidential term in April 2018. He was toppled in the ensuing “Velvet Revolution.”
Government officials gave no indications that the planned commission could propose a return to the presidential system.
The government strategy also envisages the creation of a “fact-finding commission” that will document electoral fraud and human rights abuses committed since Armenia’s won independence in 1991 and recommend ways of redressing them. The commission is due to present its “advisory conclusions” to the government and the parliament.
“The fact-finding commission will collect cases of systematic and mass human rights violations in at least the following areas: electoral processes that have taken place since 1991, political persecutions during post-election processes that have taken place since 1991, forced confiscations of property for public or state needs and other manifestations of dispossession, and soldiers killed in non-combat conditions,” explained Grigorian.