President's representative in Parliament,
Armen Harutyunyan, says reforms were aimed
at distributing power.
Constitutional changes proposed by President
Robert Kocharyan failed to gain voter approval
in Sunday's referendum.
According to the preliminary information the
issue failed by 563,205 to 555,663. In order for
a referendum to pass, it must get at least two-thirds
of the vote. About 778,000 would have been required
in Sunday's vote.
The CEC missed by 12 hours its legal deadline
requiring that preliminary results be published.
Its next constitutionally-ordered deadline is
tomorrow. Voter turnout was the lowest (51 percent)
in the history of independent Armenia, yet the
CEC is saying that it has been overwhelmed with
trying to count all the votes from various territories.
Kocharyan himself has said it would be difficult
for him to get the votes required to see the constitutional
Chief among the proposed reform was changes that
many interpret as a means of expanding the President's
Kocharyan, however, has said all along that the
amendments would curtail his sweeping constitutional
powers and strengthen the legislature and the
government. The president, for example, would
be allowed to dissolve the parliament only in
the event of its "inactivity," and not
at will as is the case now.
Many voters have said they did not participate
in the referendum because they were not aware
of the proposals.
"Those were not constitutional changes presented
at the referendum but changes already made in
the constitution and ordinary people likely cannot
understand what has been changed," says political
scientist and expert on constitutional rights
Former Speaker of the National Assembly Babken
Ararktsyan, a member of the (oppositional) Armenian
National Movement said there was no reason for
the proposed changes except that Kocharyan simply
wanted "to have his own Constitution".
"This draft strengthens president's positions
to the extent that he gets not just immunity but
superimmunity vested with superpowers and all
possibilities of evading liability," said
However, Kocharyan's representative in the National
Assembly, Armen Harutyunyan, insists on the contrary.
"I'm surprised with the points of view concerning
the increase of presidential powers," he
says. "One of the achievements of the draft
constitution is that all three branches of the
government are balanced."
According to the current constitution, the president
has a right to appoint the Chief Prosecutor and
discharge him or her if proposed by the Prime
Minister. According to the proposed version, the
president could appoint and discharge the Chief
Prosecutor by his own wish.
And in exchange for canceling his exceptional
right to disband the National Assembly, Kocharyan's
proposals would give the president the power to
discharge Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense
in case those ministers were presented by the
National Assembly and appointed by the Prime Minister.
"By these changes the government's role
can be reduced to zero," Poghosyan says.
Also at issue in the referendum was dual citizenship.
According to the new draft constitution, the
ban on double citizenship is cancelled. The ANC,
the controlling party when the Constitution was
adopted in 1995, opposes dual citizenship.
"If citizens of Armenia get double citizenship
then they will prefer to serve in the army of
other countries and several years later Armenia
won't have any army," said a statement in
Harutyunyan counters: "A country that has
such a great Diaspora, at least psychologically,
cannot have a constitution which bans double citizenship,"
adding that dual citizenship in no way threatens
Information for this report was also gathered