A newly formed government commission tasked with drafting wide-ranging amendments to the Armenian constitution met for the first time on Friday amid uncertainty about the outcome of its work.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced plans to set up the commission in December. It was decided then that the ad hoc body will comprise 15 members, including Armenia’s justice minister, human rights ombudsman, a representative of the country’s judges, members of the three political forces represented in the parliament and legal scholars chosen by the Justice Ministry.
The commission’s members were appointed late last month just days before Pashinian’s political team unexpectedly drafted its own constitutional amendments and put them on a referendum slated for April 5.They call for replacing seven of the nine members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court locked in a dispute with the government.
The decision to hold the referendum raised new questions about the commission’s mission and time frames for the possible enactment of constitutional changes to be proposed by it. As recently as on January 21, Justice Minister Rustam Badasian said the authorities will be able to schedule a referendum on those changes by the end of this year.
However, Pashinian said on Thursday that the second constitutional referendum could be held simultaneously with Armenia’s next general elections due in 2023. He did not say which articles or chapters of the constitution the commission should concentrate on.
The commission chairman, Yeghishe Kirakosian, said after Friday’s meeting that the panel will come up with a package of amendments and initiate “public discussions” on it by September. “We don’t yet have a timetable for [what will happen] after that,” he told reporters.