They also want to criminalize any government decision to stop campaigning for greater international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
The ballot initiative dubbed Hayakve (Armenian vote) follows Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s recent pledge to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh through an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty. His statement has been strongly condemned by the Armenian opposition and Karabakh’s leadership.
Avetik Chalabian, an opposition figure coordinating the initiative, said on Monday that Pashinian made a “verbal statement that has no legal force” and that Hayake aims to prevent him from formalizing his far-reaching plans.
Hayakve is specifically seeking two new articles of the Armenian Criminal Code which would make recognition of Karabakh’s incorporation into Azerbaijan and renunciation of the genocide recognition campaign crimes punishable by between 10 and 15 years in prison. Chalabian argued that this would be in line with a 1990 declaration of independence adopted by Armenia’s first post-Communist parliament.
Armenian law requires the parliament to debate any initiative backed by at least 50,000 citizens. A petition signed by at least 300,000 Armenians must be put on a referendum.
The current National Assembly is controlled by Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, suggesting that the referendum is the only realistic way of enacting the amendments demanded by Hayakve and endorsed by many opposition leaders.
Chalabian said he and other individuals leading the ballot initiative, among them several well-known artists and intellectuals, will release weekly updates on the number of signatures collected by them. He did not say how many citizens have already backed the effort with their signatures.
Some mainstream opposition groups pledged earlier this month to stage street protests against what they see as a “new capitulation” deal with Azerbaijan planned by Pashinian.