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Armenia: As opposition cracked down in Armenia, process of constitutional reform taking shape

President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has launched meetings with political forces to discuss his Constitution Reform Initiative. The president has already met with several political parties. The project of Constitutional Reform features transition to the parliamentary system of government in Armenia among other things.

ARF Dashnaktsutyun (ARFD) Party was the only opposition party to openly support the president-initiated Constitution Reform. The other major opposition parties - Armenian National Congress (ANC), Heritage Party and Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) - are opposing the document. Ex-president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan did not support the Initiative either. In this light, the president froze the process of the Constitution Reform till February 2015 to get ‘wider political support.’

However, the authorities re-launched the process soon after the opposition was cracked down, and Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of the most popular opposition party Prosperous Armenia, left the political field.

Meanwhile, the other opposition political parties have either expressed their support to the president-initiated Constitution Reform or preferred general statements to final decisions on the issue.

“There are some problems with the opposition’s supervisory functions and the election system, but we support the Constitution Reform, in general,” says Alexander Arzumanyan, MP, leader of the opposition Armenian Pan-National Movement (APNM) Party.

Artsvik Minasyan, member of ARFD parliamentary faction, reaffirmed his party’s support to the Constitution Reform Initiative. “At present, we enjoy mutual understanding on almost all the provisions of the document and our suggestions are subject to implementation,” the politician said.

Meanwhile, Gurgen Arsenyan, leader of the United Labor Party (ULP) demonstrated caution and avoided any statements “in favor” or “against” the president’s initiative.  “So far, we are discussing the issue. All the political forces will yet have an opportunity to express their stand on the issue,” Arsenyan said. During their meeting with the president, Arsenyan said, the ULP representatives expressed their readiness to join the expert group working on the Constitution Reform.

The leadership of the PAP – the party has faced hard times after Gagik Tsarukyan left it - also met with the president over the issue. In a Facebook post, PAP Spokesperson Vahan Babayan says the Party’s stand on the Constitution Reform Initiative has not changed and the Party still considers the document as “a mechanism to retain power.”

The opponents of the idea are sure that President Serzh Sargsyan seeks to retain control over the political levers either as the leader of the ruling party or as the parliament speaker after expanding the parliament's supervisory powers through reforming the constitution.

Representatives of the Armenian National Congress refused to meet with the president. “We are against the Constitution Reform. Our stand has not changed. Even if we prove alone against that Initiative, we will not stop fighting,” says Levon Zurabyan, head of the ANC parliamentary faction.

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