“While considering it obvious that the Constitution needs to be constantly developed and improved, I must emphasize my belief that Armenia should maintain the parliamentary system of government because the events of 2021 proved that this system provides more effective mechanisms for crisis management and the people’s … decisive participation in the political debate,” Pashinian said in a written address to the nation.
The statement was issued on the occasion of Constitution Day, a public holiday that marks the anniversary of the adoption of Armenia’s first post-Soviet constitution in a disputed referendum held on July 5, 1995.
The constitution gave the president of the republic sweeping powers that were slightly curtailed in 2005. It was radically amended in 2015 as then President Serzh Sarkisian controversially engineered the country’s transition to a parliamentary system of government.
Pashinian called for fresh constitutional changes last year, saying that his administration will consider restoring the presidential system. But he stated afterwards that Armenia should remain a parliamentary republic.
This raised more questions about the purpose of a constitutional reform “council” set up later in 2021. It consists of state officials, pro-government politicians and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The council in turn formed a commission comprising five legal scholars tasked with drafting constitutional amendments.
The commission coordinator, Davit Hakobian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that he and most of his colleagues are also against changing the country’s government system.
Hakobian said the ad hoc body is working instead on creating a more effective system of constitutional checks and balances. He suggested that it could propose giving more powers to the current, largely ceremonial president and even the parliamentary opposition.
The two opposition alliances represented in the Armenian parliament were offered to appoint two other members of the council. But they refused, saying that the purpose of the planned amendments is to help Pashinian cling to power.
Serzh Sarkisian faced similar accusations when he pushed through the sweeping constitutional changes in 2015. Sarkisian’s attempt to remain in power as prime minister after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018 sparked mass protests that brought Pashinian to power.