PACE: Failure of Referendum on Const. Reforms A Difficult Situation


YEREVAN, AUGUST 22, NOYAN TAPAN. The delegation headed by Rene van der
Linden, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Counsil of
Europe, which was on a three-day visit in Armenia, had meetings with
groupings-factions of the RA National Assembly and members of the
Committees. Tigran Torosian, the RA NA Deputy Chairman, the Chairman
of the Ad-hoc Committee on Matters of Integration in European
Structures, briefly presenting the present stage of the constitutional
reforms, mentioned that today, the Constitutional reform is the most
important issue for Armenia both on political arena and within the
context of the obligations undertaken at the CE. He stated that the
final conclusion of the Venice Commission was received on July 21
which has fixed a complete fulfilment of the agreements, except two
points, concerning which there is still something to do. According to
T.Torosian, during the last month, there were meetings with public
organizations, soon there will be discussions with the authors as well
to improve the draft upmost. The NA Chairman considered important and
necessary the implemention of a dialogue among all political forces
around the Constitutional reforms, which is the demand of the
resolution of the Venice Commission and the PACE. T.Torosian mentioned
that the Constitutional reforms are of particular meaning for Armenia
and it is necessary to work in order that no important proposal is
left out. At the same time, he expressed a hope that opportunities to
secure the issue from political speculations and to give solutions to
all problems have not been exhausted yet. Rene van der Linden
mentioned that for Armenia, the referendum of the constitutional
reforms will become a touchstone, and for Azerbaijan, the
parliamentary elections will become a touchstone, as both countries
have not come out of the CE monitoring process. He expressed a hope
that the most important problem for politicians is the country’s
coming out of the monitoring process and implementation of the
obligations undertaken at the CE what is a national obligation. Within
this context, a successful holding of the referendum was attached
importance to; that will support implementation of the political
dialogue what is equally an issue both of authorities and opposition.

The issue of the public awareness around contents problems was also
attached importance to. It was mentioned that the referendum will be
in the center of the attention of the Council of Europe: 40 CE
observers will participate in the referendum, and results will undergo
monitoring. According to the information submitted to Noyan Tapan by
the RA NA Public Relations Department, Shavarsh Kocharian, Gurgen
Arsenian amd Hmayak Hovhannisian, committee members, presented their
viewpoints around the process of the constitutional reforms. Armen
Rustamian, the Chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Foreign
Relations, presenting the functions of the Committee to the guests,
mentioned that among the Committee’s activities, a great place is
given to issues of the Eurointegration, implementation of the
obligations undertaken by Armenia at the CE. Touching upon the
relations with neighbors, particularly with Azerbaijan and Turkey, he
mentioned that the two countries carry out a joined policy, proposing
preconditions for settlement of relations, and Armenia stated many
times that it is ready for cooperation without preconditions. As for
the issue of settlement of the relations with neighbors, A.Rustamian
considered important assistance of European structures. The PACE
Chairman once more attached importance to adoption of the
Constitutional reforms, mentioning that the obligations undertaken by
Armenia at the CE can not be considered completed without
constitutional reforms. In this context, Armenia’s involvement in the
“Wider Europe: New Neighbours” program that will become an important
precondition for the economic development, was attached importance
to. Within the framework of the regional cooperation, settlement of
the relations with neighbours was also attached importance to. Rene
van der Linden met with representatives of opposing factions of the
Parliament, “Ardarutiun” (Justice) and “Azgayin Miabanutiun” (National
Unification) as well. Future strategy of the opposition was within the
pivot of the conversation: the issue of participation in the process
of the constitutional reforms. The PACE Chairman assured opposing
deputies to cooperate with the authoritied in the issue of amending
the Constitution, starting a dialogue to reach a common denominator.

He mentioned that both authorities and opposition will equally take
responsibility for final results. He also warned that in the case of
failure of the referendum of the Constitutional reforms, Armenia will
appear in a very hard situation. According to him, both Europe and
whole international community will observe that referendum as the main
ordeal for Armenia on the way of the Eurointegration. According to the
PA Chairman, it also will have a direct influence on the relations of
Armenia and the European Union, the process of the “Wider Europe: New
Neighbors” program. During the meeting, the heads of both opposing
factions touched upon falsifications and violations commited during
the previous elections, mentioning that calling their organizers to
account, today the authorities will take a real step in the direction
of creating an atmosphere of confidence. With its help, according to
him, the risk of the draft constitutional reforms’ failure by the
referendum will decrease. However, realizing the importance of the
issue and listening to the European partners, both factions envisage
to participate in the August 29 sitting. Artashes Geghamian, the
Chairman of the “Azgayin Miabanutiun” (“AM”), expressed anxiety that,
in the case of saying “yes” to the Constitutional reforms, the people
not trusting the authorities will not trust the opposition, either,
and a political chaos will be created in the country. In order to
avoid this situation, he proposed to dissolve the Parliament after
putting the edited variant of the Constitution on the referendum, and
organize, first, parliamentary, then, president’s special elections.

The “AM” agrees to carry out propaganda for the new draft of the
Constitution with this precondition. And Stepan Demirchian, the
Chairman of the “Ardarutiun” faction demands to punish falsificators
(organizers) of the previous elections, correct and clean the
electoral rolls, create an atmosphere of confidence in the country.
Otherwise, according to him, there is no difference if the authorities
violate a good Constitution or a bad one. As for the contents of the
amended variant of the Constitution, according to S.Demirchian, their
approaches are represented in the draft incompletely. At the
Parliament, the PACE Chairman had a meeting with representatives of
the political forces of the coalition and the “People’s Deputy”
grouping as well. According to Galust Sahakian, the head of the RPA
faction, initiating the constitutional reforms, the coalition has also
taken the responsibility for it. He assured that today Armenia in on
the way of system changes, strengthening democracy and the
Eurointegration. Levon Mkrtchian, the head of the ARF faction
emphasized that, having a large number of electors, they also attache
importance to reaching an agreement with the opposition and to the
cooperation issue. He doesn’t agree with those formulations of those
opposing that the rulling parties do not cooperate with them. As an
example of cooperation, he mentioned the calls of the coalition
addressed to the opposition still a year ago to participate in the
discussions on the Electoral Code and constitutional reforms. But,
according to L.Mkrtchian, the opposition is led in its activities with
the tactics “first, change of authorities.” If in future, they succeed
to organize a contents discussion on the Constitutional reforms with
the opposition’s participation, the atmosphere will significantly
change, L.Mkrtchian thinks. Mher Shahgeldian, a member of the “Orinats
Yerkir” (Country of Law) faction shared the PACE Chairman’s opinion
concerning not making the Constitutional reforms a subject of
speculation in the political competition. He considered urgent
solution of problems like separation of powers, fixing of mechanisms
of balance and control, independence of judicial and information
structures by the Constitution.