Armenian constitutional amendments raise civil society concerns
STATEMENT OF ARMENIAN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS
ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
INITIATED BY PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA
Yerevan, June 5, 2015: On September 4 2013, the President of Armenia Serj Sargsyan issued a decree to establish a Specialized Commission on Constitutional Reforms under the President’s office to draft amendments to the Armenian Constitution. This decision was the second in the chain of unexpected unilateral decisions started a day before, on September 3, 2013, with S. Sargsyan’s announcement to join the Customs Union. Before, there have not been any expert debates or public discussions in Armenia on the need for constitutional changes. Instead, legal experts and human rights groups continuously have raised the concern of poor enforcement and gross violations of the Constitution by the state authorities.
On April 10 2014, the Specialized Commission on Constitutional Reforms presented a Draft Concept Paper on the Constitutional Reforms of the Republic of Armenia, which proposed some changes related to human rights, local governance, judiciary, etc. Most importantly, the concept paper proposed a transitioning of the governance system from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary one, where the national elections will be held for the National Assembly only and the MPs will elect a president.
On September 11 2014, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued an opinion on the mentioned concept paper. Along with analyzing and recommending to improve some of the proposed amendments, it stressed that the choice of the governance system in favor of a parliamentary one “also contain a political element and will have to be debated extensively in the country. In any case, a comprehensive constitutional reform can be carried out only on the basis of broad consensus within society.” The need for a large consensus within society in respect of constitutional changes was also stressed by Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during her visit to Armenia on April 13-15 2015.
Read the full statement here.