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Armenia Should Remain Parliamentary Republic, Says Minister


Armenia -- Justice Minister Rustam Badasian at a news conference in Yerevan, December 27, 2019.

Armenia should not revert to the presidential system of government as a result of constitutional changes planned by its current leadership, Justice Minister Rustam Badasian said on Tuesday.

Badasian will be one of the 15 members of a state commission tasked with drafting fresh amendments to the Armenian constitution.

Under an executive order signed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on December 30, the commission will also comprise other state officials, representatives of the three political groups represented in parliament as well as six legal scholars. The latter will be chosen, on a supposedly competitive basis, by the Justice Ministry, suggesting that Badasian will play a key role in the work of the ad hoc body.

The Armenian government officially announced plans to amend the constitution in October as part of its strategy of reforming the national judicial and electoral systems. It has since been speculated that Pashinian is also considering restoring the presidential system of government which existed in the country from 1991-2018.

Badasian appeared to rule out such a possibility when he spoke to reporters. Asked whether Armenia will cease to be a parliamentary republic as a result of the planned constitutional reform, he said: “I don’t think so. That issue should not be discussed.”

Armenia switched to the parliamentary system following sweeping constitutional changes enacted through a disputed 2015 referendum. Former President Serzh Sarkisian engineered that transition in an effort to hold on to power after completing his second and final presidential term in April 2018. Sarkisian was toppled in the ensuing “Velvet Revolution” led by Pashinian.

“At least the most recent constitutional change in Armenia’s history can be described as a disgrace given the purpose of that change,” said Badasian.

Still, the minister, who will turn 29 next week, indicated that the Armenian judiciary will be the main focus of the fresh constitutional amendments. He said the authorities want to “restore public trust” in the courts but declined to specify which amendments could be enacted for that purpose.

Some members of Pashinian’s political team have suggested that the planned reform should end what they call a Constitutional Court “crisis” in the country.

Most members of the court, installed by the former Armenian governments, have been under strong government pressure to resign in recent months. They have not bowed to that pressure so far. There have been suggestions that the authorities will try to get rid of them by constitutionally abolishing the Constitutional Court and creating a new high court in its place.

Badasian spoke out against such a solution. He said the commission will be working on major changes that will apply to the entire judicial system.

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