The government has started forming an ad hoc commission tasked with drafting fresh amendments to Armenia’s constitution.
Under an executive order signed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, the commission will consist of 15 members, including Justice Minister Rustam Badasian, the government’s representative to the European Court of Human Rights, human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan and a representative of the country’s judges.
It will also comprise six legal scholars, who will be chosen by the Justice Ministry on a supposedly competitive basis, two civil society members and representatives of the three political forces represented in the Armenian parliament.
The government officially announced plans to amend the constitution in October as part of its strategy of reforming the national judicial and electoral systems. The strategy calls for constitutional changes relating to the work of judicial bodies and conduct of elections.
Vahagn Hovakimian, a senior lawmaker from Pashinian’s My Step alliance, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Tuesday that the commission will also discuss the wisdom of restoring the presidential system of government in the country. Asked whether the current authorities are intent on engineering such a change, he said: “There have been no such discussions.”
The current constitution underwent sweeping changes as a result of a disputed referendum held in 2015. They led to Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic.
Former President Serzh Sarkisian initiated 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” led by Pashinian.
It is not yet clear whether the two opposition parties represented in the parliament would support a return to the presidential system. One of them, Bright Armenia (LHK), has been campaigning for constitutional curbs on sweeping powers enjoyed by the prime minister.
LHK leader Edmon Marukian said on Tuesday that the constitutional reform process launched by the authorities is an opportunity to reform the existing “super prime-ministerial system.” He said his party will therefore accept the government offer to name one member of the commission.
The opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) has yet to discuss its participation in the commission’s work.
Deputy Justice Minister Rafael Grigorian suggested that the commission will likely start its activities as early as next month. But he gave no possible time frames for the drafting of constitutional changes.