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Opposition Parties Join Constitutional Reform Panel


Armenia -- Deputies from the opposition Bright Armenia Party attend a parliament session in Yerevan, January 20, 2020.

The two opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament have named their representatives to an ad hoc commission tasked with drafting constitutional changes planned by the government.

Under an executive order signed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian earlier this month, 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 opposition Bright Armenia (LHK) and Prosperous Armenia (BHK) parties will be represented in the commission by their senior lawmakers: Taron Sahakian and Gevorg Petrosian respectively. Vladimir Vartanian, the pro-government chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, will represent Pashinian’s My Step alliance.

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.

There is also lingering speculation that Pashinian is considering restoring the presidential system of government in the country, even though he has made no public statements to that effect so far. My Step’s parliamentary leader, Lilit Makunts, said on Monday that she sees no need for such a radical change. But she also said that it is up to the commission to recommend whether Armenia should remain a parliamentary republic.

The BHK, which boasts the second largest group in the National Assembly, has yet to decide what kind of amendments to the Armenian constitution it should press for. The party’s leader, Gagik Tsarukian, noted on Monday that in 2015 he was forced to temporarily leave the political arena because of opposing the switch to the parliamentary system of government initiated by then President Serzh Sarkisian.

For its part, the LHK has been campaigning for constitutional curbs on sweeping powers enjoyed by the prime minister. Sahakian, its nominee for the commission, said the planned constitutional changes should end the “overconcentration of power in the executive branch” while preserving the parliamentary system.

Makunts claimed in this regard that the existing system cannot be described “super prime-ministerial” because elections held in Armenia are no longer rigged and the parliamentary opposition is now in a better position to hold the government in check.

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