Unconvinced: Critics dismiss Sargsyan’s arguments on constitutional amendments

 Unconvinced: Critics dismiss Sargsyan’s arguments on constitutional amendments


Critics of the proposed constitutional changes believe President Serzh Sargsyan’s most recent interview in which he tried to defend the controversial reform once again shows that the current head of state seeks to retain his power beyond 2018 when the current Constitution will bar him from running for a third consecutive term.
Levon Zurabyan

Addressing a rally of “No” supporters late on Thursday, opposition Armenian National Congress member Levon Zurabyan said: “In his speech Serzh Sargsyan willy-nilly admitted that this project is for retaining his personal power.”

In his statements made in an interview with representatives of leading television channels aired on Thursday, Sargsyan, however, reiterated that he was not going to occupy a top government post and even be a “shadow” leader if the reform envisaging a transition to a parliamentary form of government is approved and carried out. He did not, however, rule out the prospect of his becoming prime minister if the reform is not approved at the referendum. In any case, the president said he could not speculate on that now when the next parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in 2017.

But leading opposition groups campaigning against the changes remain unconvinced. “Today, the entire nation rejects the constitutional changes, because all people first of all reject Serzh Sargsyan,” he said.

“The most important thing is that we have accomplished the goal for which we started this whole process. If you remember, the Armenian National Congress formulated this goal still last summer – to turn the referendum on constitutional amendments into a vote of no confidence in the regime.”

Meanwhile, at least one organization also reacted to President Sargsyan’s remarks, in particular concerning the 2013 presidential election.

The Europe in Law Association (ELA) human rights NGO said that the statement made by the president regarding the number of complaints after that vote did not correspond to the reality.

In particular, the ELA referred to Sargsyan’s statement that 30,000 people had an opportunity to monitor the 2013 presidential election, and 14,500 of them were opposition members and represented parties. Sargsyan went on to say that there was only one complaint filed then. “If we rigged the elections, why weren’t there any complaints? Why the violations that they see are not registered?” the president said.

“The Europe in Law Association Human Rights NGO alone, monitoring with 14 observers the vote at 14 polling stations in the Ararat region presented several dozen applications and complaints connected with the violations it observed, and addressed them to different administrative and law enforcement bodies, including the courts of the Republic of Armenia. There was no efficient investigation on any of them,” the organization stated.