YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The commission drafting constitutional amendments has released eight more chapters of Armenia’s new proposed constitution, suggesting Armenia’s switch to a parliamentary form of government.
Chapters 8-15 of the draft constitution concern prosecutors and investigators, the ombudsman, the Central Election Commission, the Audit Chamber, and other institutions.
The first seven chapters publicized by the commission earlier mostly concerned the formation of different branches of power. They drew criticism from leading Armenian opposition parties as well as the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission that highlighted two controversial aspects: the parliamentary election mechanism envisaging a so-called second round of vote to ensure a “stable majority” in parliament, as well as the order of appointing judges that critics say may affect the independence of the judiciary.
According to the new draft chapters posted on the official website of the Ministry of Justice, the rules of forming the Central Election Commission (CEC) have completely changed. It is suggested that all seven members of the CEC, including its head, be elected by the National Assembly, whereas now all seven members are appointed by the president. According to the published draft, the parliament will also have the right to terminate the powers of CEC members.
According to the draft constitution, the prosecutor-general shall also be appointed and dismissed by parliament. Under the current constitution, the president proposes a candidate to parliament for the post of the prosecutor-general, as well as raises the issue of his or her dismissal from office.
In contrast with the current constitution, the head of the Audit Chamber and six other members of the body will be elected by the Parliament for a period of six years. Now, the head of the Audit Chamber is nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly. The same amendment is proposed also in the case of electing the governor of the Central Bank.
Under the new draft constitution, the largely ceremonial president is deprived of the right to appoint members of the National Commission on Television and Radio. It is proposed that all seven members of the Commission be elected by parliament, whereas today half of them are appointed by the president.
Under the current constitution, the president or the parliament can initiate constitutional amendments. Now this right is reserved to at least one third of the total number of deputies, to the government or to 200,000 citizens who have the right to vote. The Parliament, however, must approve the draft resolution on the referendum.
The constitutional reform commission also announced that it will soon publish the transitional provisions of the draft constitution thus presenting the full version of the new Basic Law.
The constitutional package will need to be formally endorsed by President Serzh Sarkissian before it can be sent to parliament for approval. Armenian lawmakers are expected to start debating the document in September. The Sarkissian administration is expected to put the amendments on a referendum later this year or early next.