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Opposition Parties To Help ‘No’ Campaign For Armenian Referendum


Armenia -- The Armenian Revolutionary Federation holds a rally in Yerevan's Liberty Square, May 23, 2019.

Two major opposition parties have pledged to cooperate with a group of lawyers campaigning for a “no” vote in the upcoming referendum on a government proposal to oust most members of Armenia’s Constitutional Court.

The 61 lawyers critical of the Armenian government were officially registered on Tuesday as the sole “No” side in the unfolding referendum campaign.

The official status allows them to have free airtime on state television and appoint two of the seven members of each precinct-level election commission that will be formed for the April 5 vote. They will thus need to recruit over 4,000 sympathizers ready to join those commissions, a difficult task for the mostly Yerevan-based lawyers.

Earlier this week, the No campaign appealed to Armenia’s four leading opposition parties to help fill its commission seats with their members and supporters.

All of those parties have questioned the legality of the referendum, saying that the court-related amendments drafted by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s team contradict the Armenian constitution. But none of them has decided to officially campaign against a “Yes” vote sought by Pashinian.

According to Ruben Melikian, a “No” campaign coordinator, the opposition Bright Armenia (LHK) and Dashnaktsutyun parties have responded positively to the appeal.

“We need to be sure that we will have people capable of performing the duties of commission chair, secretary or member, and the public should be confident that those functions are performed by people who sincerely oppose the referendum process,” Melikian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday.

LHK and Dashnaktsutyun representatives confirmed that they will allow and encourage members of their parties to join the commissions and monitor the proper conduct of the referendum.

Dashnaktsutyun’s Ishkhan Saghatelian said this is not at odds with his party’s calls for a boycott of the vote. He argued that Dashnaktsutyun’s objective is to scuttle the passage of the constitutional changes.

The two other opposition forces, the former ruling Republican Party and Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party, have not yet responded to the lawyers’ appeal.

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