Draft Amendments to Constitution Meet Around 95 Percent of ARF Expectations

Aghvan Vardanyan and Armen Rustamyan
Aghvan Vardanyan and Armen Rustamyan

YEREVAN—The Commission on Armenia’s Constitutional Reforms, which is headed by President Serge Sarkisian, released the final version of the draft amendments to the constitution on Aug. 21.  The draft amendments meet 90-95 percent of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s (ARF) expectations, ARF parliamentary faction secretary Aghvan Vardanyan told reporters on Aug. 24, when he, along with ARF Bureau member and head of the party’s political affairs Armen Rustamyan, gave a press conference.

According to Vardanyan, the draft amendments incorporate some 79 fundamental and priority proposals of the ARF. Around 20 other proposals will be submitted soon, he said.

“We will do everything so that through the referendum, the people will accept our amendments,” Vardanyan was quoted as saying by Yerkir Media. He added that through these reforms, Armenia will be able to move in a new direction, and that he is certain that the constitutional reforms will help solve some of the existing problems in the country.

On Aug. 18, Vardanyan had said that representatives of the party would be meeting with President Sarkisian to discuss the draft of the new constitution.

“We submitted substantial proposals to the Commission on Constitutional Reforms and have discussed those proposals with the commission. I believe a discussion with the Armenian president will also take place soon,” Vardanyan told Panorama.am when asked about the ARF’s stance on the draft amendments.

The ARF has called for a transition to a parliamentary system of government in Armenia. Under the new system, Armenia would work with a 101-seat parliament with a 5-year term elected entirely by proportional representation. Under the current system of government, there are 131 members of parliament; 41 elected in first-past-the-post constituencies and the rest by proportional representation.

According to Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), Sarkisian will hold final consultations with political parties that have not rejected the constitutional reforms package.

It is expected that Sarkisian will send the draft amendments to parliament following the consultation. There, the amendments will be debated by the RPA-majority National Assembly. It is expected that they will be put to a referendum sometime in November.

ARF representatives first met with Sarkisian in early May to discuss the party’s proposal on constitutional reforms. Speaking to reporters in Yerevan on March 12, Arstvik Minasyan, the deputy of the ARF faction of the National Assembly of Armenia, had said he was confident  the president would accept the ARF’s proposal. Sarkisian gave his approval to the Concept Paper on Constitutional Amendments tendered by the Specialized Commission for Constitutional Amendments on May 14.


Opposition to the Reforms

Several of Armenia’s opposition parties have publicly criticized government officials for ignoring the recommendations of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe advisory body. Armenia’s RFE/RL service Azatutyun.am reported that the body called for the removal of a controversial provision on the so-called “second round” in parliamentary elections from the draft amendments.

According to media reports, representatives from the Venice Commission will visit Yerevan to discuss the amendments with government officials and members of civil society.

Meanwhile, the Heritage Party’s deputy chair, Armen Martirosyan, has said that the amendments to the constitution are an attempt to extend the power of the two-term president. “There is a clear desire on the part of these authorities to ensure a guaranteed reproduction of power with Serge Sarkisian at its head. And that would only be possible if there is a ‘stable majority’ in parliament, which is contrary to the spirit of parliamentarianism,” he told Azatutyun.am.

Aram Manukyan, secretary of the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC), in a press conference on Aug. 21 said that his party would not participate in discussions on the reforms. Instead, the ANC will be visiting cities and towns across the country with a message to citizens that the submitted document is “unconstitutional.” Manukyan added that the ANC intends to cooperate with all political forces that oppose the reforms.



  1. I am surprised how ARF agrees with constitutional changes. There is no democracy without independent judiciary. There has been comprehensive studies in Hungary and Burma which showed the constitutional changes can be made when the authorities and the opposition can work together for a process of democratization. For this, one needs political will and a strong opposition.
    Today, Armenia’s constitution is authority centered not human rights centered which is wrong. We also did not have experience in creating institutional systems. Normally, constitutional changes must be done during a constitutional crisis. What is the constitutional crisis in Armenia? What are the reasons that request changes in the constitution now?

  2. Forgot to add: A new government will not be able to implement good democratic governance if the institutions don’t work and if there are not mechanisms of checks and balances.
    Because the main political party has hundreds of million of dollars, it will not give up its dominant authority. Parliamentary government works when 1)there is a strong opposition party 2)there is regular change in institutions and parties and 3)political culture and political parties do not rely on the proper function of institutions. Therefore the UK parliamentary model will not work in Armenia where we don’t have checks and balances, mechanisms for government accountability and there is no strong opposition party. A new government will not be able to implement good democratic governance if the institutions don’t work and if there are not mechanisms of checks and balances.
    Because the main political party has hundreds of million of dollars, it will not give up its dominant authority but will stregthen and consolidate its power through constitutional changes to guarantee the continutation of a totalitarian regime. For this is ARF in agreement 95%???

  3. The 1st quarter century. When the fledgling new Republic came on the scene, word was democracy would evolve in a slow and steady pace. Why then can’t another revision to the constitution be laid out for all to see? Why must the proletariat be the last to know?

  4. Constitutional changes by the illegitimate authorities who came to power through rigged elections and blood and now want to extend their power by all the means is very dangerous for the Armenian statehood and for the democracy. All the political parties who support the proposed referendum they actually support the maintenance of the criminal rule of Serj Sargsyan and the Republican Party of Armenia. Even those political parties, such as ARF, who generally support the parliamentary system of governance, should refrain from supporting the referendum at this time, knowing very well the major aim of so-called “constitutional reforms.” You may read more about the concerns of civil society organizations here http://transparency.am/en/news/view/995

  5. This ‘report’ tells us next to nothing — it is mostly fluff, and informative only in the most rudimentary way. For example, readers would have benefited from learning which reforms (95%) ARF agrees with, and which reforms (5%) it disagrees with. But we receive nothing of substance. In fact, the only specific reforms mentioned are a) shifting to a parliamentary system of governance; and b) shifting to elections based upon proportional representation. For those who follow the news, none of this is new: ARF has been talking about these issues for several years now.

    An informed debate on this matter is essential, if Armenia is to take real steps toward democracy. Unfortunately, journalism of the sort displayed here doesn’t help. We must do better.

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