The Constitutional Reform In Question Commentaries Constitutional Reform 'Victory For Dashnaktsutyun'



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The Constitutional Reform In Question

Commentaries



Constitutional Reform 'Victory For Dashnaktsutyun'

By Karlen Aslanian & Hovannes Movsisian


RFE/RL Armenia Report - 24/08/2015


The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) reaffirmed on Monday its support for President Serzh Sarkisian's controversial constitutional changes that envisage Armenia's transition to a parliamentary system of government.


Aghvan Vartanian, a leader of the opposition party, argued that Dashnaktsutyun has long favored the country's transformation into a parliamentary republic which it believes would bode for democracy and the rule of law.
"This draft constitution corresponds to our vision by 90-95 percent," said Vartanian. "We can conclude that # our approaches and views have prevailed, even though we are not in government and have only five deputies in the [131-seat] parliament. With this constitution the country will move in a direction envisioned by us."
"It's hard to imagine a greater victory for a political force," Vartanian declared at a joint news conference with another Dashnaktsutyun leader, Armen Rustamian.
Dashnaktsutyun's stance has fueled media speculation that it is ready to return to the Armenian government, in which it was represented by three ministers until 2009. Hrant Markarian, another top party leader, last month did not rule out the possibility of his party cutting a new power-sharing deal with Sarkisian. But he insisted that it is holding no talks with the president for that purpose yet.
Dashnaktsutyun is the sole parliamentary opposition force to openly endorse a package of constitutional amendments that were drafted by a presidential commission earlier this month. Two other major opposition parties, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun, insist that the constitutional reform would only enable Sarkisian to officially or unofficially stay in power after completing his second and final presidential term in 2018.
The HAK and Zharangutyun have also seized upon another proposed amendment mandating the conduct of a second round of voting if no political party or bloc wins a "stable" parliamentary majority in parliamentary elections. The run-off parliamentary vote would pit the two leading election contenders against each other.
The official rationale for this unusual arrangement is to safeguard political stability in Armenia. The opposition critics say, however, that it would only help Sarkisian's ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) retain its control over the National Assembly.
The Venice Commission, a Council of Europe structure monitoring the

constitutional reform process, has also voiced serious misgivings about this controversial clause. It believes that details of the electoral system must be spelled out in Armenia's electoral code, rather than the constitution.


Legal experts from the Venice Commission discussed this contentious issue with relevant Armenian officials at the start of a visit to Yerevan on Monday. Davit Harutiunian, the chief of the Armenian government staff and a member of the presidential panel, did not exclude changes in the constitutional package will be made as a result of those talks.
"Today we discussed issues related to the second round [of parliamentary elections] # I think that we will find a mutually acceptable solution," Harutiunian told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Sarkisian formally approved the draft amendments and sent them to the HHK-controlled parliament on Friday. The parliament is expected to debate them next month.

ANC: DO YOU KNOW WHY ARMENIA AUTHORITIES ARE AMENDING CONSTITUTION?

/Aug 25/news.am/

YEREVAN. - Head of the opposition Armenian National Congress National Assembly (ANC NA) Faction, Levon Zurabyan, wants to know whether members of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) know the real objective behind the Armenian authorities' making amendments to the Constitution of Armenia.

The ANC NA leader, at Tuesday's talk with the Venice Commission members in capital city Yerevan, stressed yet again that the ANC is against the proposed constitutional reform, since the ruling Republican Party of Armenia is carrying it out so as not to lose power.

"In case of a change in the system of governance [in Armenia], the NA President chooses the Prime Minister; there is no such thing in any country that has a parliamentary system [of governance]," said Zurabyan and asked: "Is the change in the system [of governance in the country] being done for the [ruling] regime?"

The Venice Commission members, in turn, noted that they are not authorized

to respond to political questions, and that they can solely express their views on the Constitutional reform.

The Venice commission members' talks with the political forces of Armenia are in progress at Yerevan State University. The representatives of all parliamentary factions are in attendance to this event.


EXPERT: ARMENIAN DRAFT CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS WILL UNDERGO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

/Aug 25/news.am/

YEREVAN. - The Venice Commission offered to fully remove from the text of draft constitutional reforms the paragraphs 4,5 and 6 of Article 89, member of the Commission Christoph Grabenwarter told reporters on Tuesday.

"The Venice Commission is not offering a concrete text, we only tell whether the submitted text is in accordance with the European standards. The matter is how much the reforms ensure stability and stable majority," he said.

Members of the Venice Commission held discussions in Armenia during which they presented the proposals and received assurances that these proposals will be taken into account.

"We hope that the text of the draft constitutional reforms will undergo significant changes," the expert resumed.


IT IS BEYOND OUR SCOPE TO ANSWER POLITICAL QUESTIONS, VENICE COMMISSION MEMBER TELLS ANC DEPUTY

/Aug 25/panorama.am/

It is beyond the scope of Venice Commission members to answer political questions, they can only express an opinion about the constitutional reform in Armenia, a member of the Venice Commission said today in response to the question of Levon Zurabyan, an MP of the opposition faction 'Armenian National Congress' (ANC), whether Venice Commission member know the purpose of carrying out constitutional reforms in Armenia.

A meeting of experts of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) with representatives of political parties of Armenia is underway at Law Department of Yerevan State University. The draft new Constitution of Armenia is being discussed at the meeting attended by representatives of parliamentary forces, public figures, human rights activists, and law experts.

As was reported, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan submitted on August 21 the draft amendments in the Constitution of Armenia to the National Assembly. The draft amendments had been developed by the Commission on Constitutional Reforms under Armenian President. Vardan Poghosyan, a member of the Commission, has been appointed as official representative of Armenian President for presentation of the draft amendments to the Constitution in the National Assembly of Armenia.

This week Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan plans to begin consultations with representatives of political parties regarding the approaches stated in the draft Constitution. The head of state also instructed the Commission on Constitutional Reforms under Armenian President to continue the dialog with the Venice Commission (VC) over those issues indicated in the VC's preliminary opinion, around which no agreed solutions have been found so far.


VENICE COMMISSION: BADLY ORGANIZED REFERENDUM MAY BECOME OBSTACLE TO REFORMS

/Aug 25/news.am/

YEREVAN. - Referendum is an important step if it passes well, otherwise it may become an obstacle to the reforms, member of the Venice Commission Talya Khabriyeva said during the meeting with the representatives of the Armenian parliamentary factions and NGOs.

Asked about the lack of trust towards the judiciary and whether there is need in constitutional reforms, Khabriyeva noted that they express their opinion about the text.

"We agree that trust towards the judiciary is background of the constitutional reforms, but we were asked to assess the text precisely," he said.
PAP: SECOND ROUND ELECTIONS AND STABLE MAJORITY IN ARMENIA PARLIAMENT IS CONCERN TO US ALL

/Aug 25/news.am/

YEREVAN. - Chairperson of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), Naira Zohrabyan, at Tuesday's talks in capital city Yerevan, asked visiting members of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) how justified is the draft Constitution's provision of a two-phased parliamentary election system in the country.

"Second round [elections] and a stable majority [in parliament], which is a concern to us all," said Zohrabyan and asked: "How is it possible to remove the concern that one political force can have a political monopoly?"

The Venice Commission members responded that their view on this matter is clear, and it has not changed from the very beginning. Nonetheless, they are for political stability.

"In our view, political stability should be one of the most important objectives of the constitutional amendment," said the Venice Commission members. "In any case, we recommend transferring this provision to the Electoral Code and adjust [it] as such."

The Venice commission members' talks with the political forces of Armenia are in progress at Yerevan State University. The representatives of all parliamentary factions are in attendance to this event.

The new draft Constitution has been forwarded to the National Assembly. The respective parliamentary debates are expected to get underway during its first four-day fall session. And as per National Assembly President Galust Sahakyan, the constitutional referendum should be conducted in late September.

Pursuant to the draft Constitution, Armenia will make a transition from a presidential to a parliamentary system of governance. The Venice Commission, however, recommends that the provision of a two-phased parliamentary election system in the country should be removed from

this draft.


VENICE COMMISSION: ARMENIA SHOULD PERMIT GAY MARRIAGE

/Aug 25/news.am/

YEREVAN. - Pursuant to the European Court of Human Rights, same-sex marriages should be allowed.

Christoph Grabenwarter, an Austrian member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), noted the above-said at a press conference on Tuesday in capital city Yerevan.

He noted this responding to the query on which agreements the Venice Commission has reached--during its talks in Yerevan--with the Specialized Committee on Constitutional Reforms, and regarding the new draft Constitution's articles with respect to gay marriage.

"Our [respective] comment was not directed in any way at protection of the family, or curtailing of marriage rights," said Grabenwarter. "It is just information to the Armenian authorities that, pursuant to European Court of Human Rights, same-sex marriages should be allowed; this is the European standard at the moment. Our recommendation should be considered within this framework."

The Venice Commission had earlier recommended that Articles 15 and 34 of the new draft Constitution of Armenia should not be perceived as a ban on gay marriage.
DRAFT CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS RAISE OPPOSITION'S ADVANTAGES - MP

/Aug 25/tert.am/

A senior lawmaker of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutyun (ARF-D) says he finds the draft text of Armenia's new Constitution promising in terms of raising the political minorities' chances of progress.

Armen Roustamyan, the leader of the ARF-D faction in parliament (who participated in the Venice Commission's forum in Yerevan earlier today), admits that the main concern is over the draft's Article 89, which addresses the mechanisms of establishing a sustainable majority.

"Yes, the problem is about the concept of creating a sustainable majority. And it was [proposed] based on an analysis of the consequences of different countries' parliamentary systems. Most parliamentary countries may fall short of securing a [political] majority," he told our correspondent, not ruling out such a possibility also for Armenia.

The opposition lawmaker added that their political force has ruled out the option of permanent elections. "The absence of a majority necessitates a new election, but a new election may fall short of securing a majority and so on and so forth. Italy, for example, formed a government with 50-60 years," he added.

Another problem, Rustamyan said, is that a government can be formed but create a minority government. "There are such countries too. And [the system] is very fragile, as it may breed non0confidence," he added.

Another factor of instability is a multi-member coalition.

"There are numerous discussions and disagreements, which causes governments to collapse," he said.

To prevent such a situation in Armenia, the concept of sustainable majority has been introduced, which needs to be explained.

"There is a false impression that one party's majority is in question.

But it is not so and the new amendment clearly reads that parliamentary majority must be formed by means of the election law. If it does not take place, a second round will take place, with the two leading forces participating with new alliances. It is an opportunity for opposition forces as well. If they fail to unite in the first round, they cannot round one candidate and achieve a change of power.

It is a door to a change of power. I am surprised the opposition political figures do not see it," Mr Rustamyan said.

Armenia's authorities have always avoided second rounds because they have always had problems with it.


CHRISTOPH GRABENWARTER: WHEN ELECTION IS FAIR, ELECTORAL SYSTEM IS OF NO SIGNIFICANCE

/Aug 25/panorama.am/

The draft new Constitution of Armenia comprises modern trends and meets European standards, Venice Commission member Christoph Grabenwarter, Austria, said at the Yerevan meeting with representatives of Armenia's political parties.

In his words, the aim of any electoral system is to ensure such a composition of parliament that reflects the popular will. In other words, if an election is fair, then the electoral system - be it majoritarian or proportional - is of no significance, C. Grabenwarter noted.

Mr. Grabenwarter said that yesterday they discussed a number of provisions that create an opportunity for a second round of parliamentary elections, and they came to the conclusion that those norms are not reflected in the Constitution. "I understand that it is a serious problem, but you are political figures. In my country, those political figures and parties that are not represented in the parliament say that the electoral system is bad. It's a common occurrence", the Commission member said adding that elections need to be democratic and free, this is the main objective.

To remind, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan submitted on August 21 the draft amendments in the Constitution of Armenia to the National Assembly. The draft amendments had been developed by the Commission on Constitutional Reforms under Armenian President. Vardan Poghosyan, a member of the Commission, has been appointed as official representative of Armenian President for presentation of the draft amendments to the Constitution in the National Assembly of Armenia.

This week Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan plans to begin consultations with representatives of political parties regarding the approaches stated in the draft Constitution. The head of state also instructed the Commission on Constitutional Reforms under Armenian President to continue the dialog with the Venice Commission (VC) over those issues indicated in the VC's preliminary opinion, around which no agreed solutions have been found so far.
VENICE COMMISSION WILL PUBLISH FINAL CONCLUSION ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS IN LATE OCTOBER

/Aug 25/Lragir.am/

Venice Also Called Them Clowns And Showed Their Address Start Announced. What's Awaiting Us?

Draft Amendments Have Been Finalized to Present to Head of State Referendum on Constitution Will Probably Be in November Who Will Govern Armenia After Constitutional Reforms?

The Venice Commission will publish a conclusion on the final draft of the constitutional amendments on October 26-28.

The Venice Commission has had meetings with the members of the expert committee which has drafted the changes and come up with comments.

Member of the Venice Commission Christoph Grabenwarter told reporters that they have received the answer, the specific points will be taken into consideration and judging by what has been said they are sure that the text will undergo essential changes. According to him, there are positive changes. There are some essential points which we have brought up and we have not achieved the best practice in those directions, the member of the Venice Commission said.

In answer to the question of one of the reporters whether the Venice Commission can guarantee that the proposed amendments will raise the level of democracy in Armenia, Mr. Grabenwarter said the Commission cannot issue a certificate that in two-three years democracy will be more immediate than today.

Christoph Grabenwarter said they cannot measure democracy like the air temperature.

The member of the commission said they evaluate the text and the context as to whether it is in line with European standards and the practices in constitutional law.


MP: SOME VENICE COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS RUN CONTRARY TO ARMENIAN SOCIETY'S SYSTEM OF VALUES

/Aug 26/news.am/eng/

YEREVAN. - There are some European Commission for Democracy through Law

(Venice Commission) recommendations which run fundamentally contrary to the system of values of the Armenian society, but there also are recommendations that will find their place in the draft constitutional amendments.

Ruling Republican Party of Armenia MP Artak Zakaryan, who is also Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Relations, stated the abovementioned at a press conference on Wednesday. He stated this reflecting on the new draft Constitution article on same-sex marriages.

In his words, even though not all Venice Commission recommendations are acceptable for Armenia, its viewpoint will be taken into account.

"We will try to get an option that will be more acceptable," added Zakaryan.

Christoph Grabenwarter, an Austrian member of the Venice Commission, had noted at a press conference on Tuesday in Armenia's capital city of Yerevan that, pursuant to the European Court of Human Rights, same-sex marriages should be allowed.



The Venice Commission had earlier recommended that Articles 15 and 34 of the new draft Constitution of Armenia should not be perceived as a ban on gay marriage.

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