Pre-referendum Assessment by Citizen Observer Initiative and European Platform for Democratic Elections

 

On September 4, 2013, President Serzh Sargsyan made a unilateral decision to introduce amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, and convened a Specialized Commission for Constitutional Reforms under the President’s Administration. The Specialized Commission developed the concept of constitutional amendments and drafted amendments to the Constitution, which were shared with the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission).

 

The Venice Commission published its opinion on the draft concept paper in September 2014 and the preliminary opinions on various sections in August and September 2015. These opinions were contested by the citizen observers groups in Armenia for the de facto promotion of the constitutional referendum. Citizen Observer Initiative called for reconsideration of the Venice Commission’s opinion in the light of the political framework in which the proposed constitutional changes may favor particular political factions and agendas.

 

The referendum was pushed forward by the authorities rather quickly and aggressively. The last and complete version of the text of amendments was published on August 21, 2015, and submitted to the National Assembly. On October 5, 2015, the RA National Assembly passed a decree to Approve Holding a Referendum on the RA Constitutional Amendments Draft. The referendum takes place on December 6, 2015.

 

The proposed amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia embrace a large volume of issues and propose changes to all but the first two articles. Hence the move should  more properly be qualified as a proposal for an altogether new constitution rather than for an ”amendment.” Most importantly, the draft proposes a change in the system of government from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary one.

 

The main objection to the proposed constitutional changes is that they seem designed to ensure that the incumbent president stays in power, given that his second term in office expires in 2018 and he is not allowed to nominate himself for a third term. The constitutional changes will allow him to continue his leadership role in the position of the speaker or prime-minister, as well as secure the monopoly power of his political party – the Republican Party of Armenia.

 

The main findings of the pre-referendum campaign highlight the following violations and concerns:   

  • Manipulation of number of voters,
  • misuse of administrative resources,
  • lack of action on previous recommendations on election legislation reform,
  • non-compliance of referendum with international standards and Armenian law
  • human rights consequences of the proposed amendments

 

See the full report here: PDF (EN)

Go back