Late November ‘Realistic’ Time For Constitutional Referendum

Members of the Constitutional Reform Commission Vardan Poghosian (L) and Hrair Tovmasian (R) at a press conference (Source: Photolure)
Members of the Constitutional Reform Commission Vardan Poghosian (L) and Hrair Tovmasian (R) at a press conference (Source: Photolure)

Members of the Constitutional Reform Commission Vardan Poghosian (L) and Hrair Tovmasian (R) at a press conference (Source: Photolure)

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—A popular referendum on proposed constitutional amendments may be held as early as the end of November, according to a member of the commission draft Armenia’s new constitution.

Vardan Poghosian believes this timeframe is “realistic” after the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC) has released all 15 chapters of the new constitution. The CRC is also expected to publish transitional provisions soon.

According to Poghosian, the full draft will be sent to the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, for review.

“We expect the Venice Commission to express its opinion on all chapters, and the final conclusion will be in October when the body’s plenary session is due,” Poghosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Earlier, the Commission refused to follow the recommendations of the Venice Commission to remove a controversial provision on the so-called “second round” of parliamentary elections from the draft constitutional amendments.

International experts had also raised concerns about the proposed order of forming the judiciary that they said could undermine the independence of the judicial branch of government.

The constitutional amendments proposed by the CRC essentially turn Armenia into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial president.

Poghosian, who is a member of the CRC, also acknowledged that quite a few changes in the final draft had been made after proposals submitted by different organizations and individuals were received by the Commission, as well as based on critical views of the media.

Poghosian predicted that the referendum on the final reform package was likely to be held this year. “One of the reasons is that if the referendum is held, for example, next spring, then there will be very little time left to develop the Electoral Code for adoption,” Poghosian said.

According to Poghosian, if discussions unfold on the document in the National Assembly next month, then the month of November will fully correspond to the time frame envisaged by the law on referendums.

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