YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—A coalition of opposition and civic groups rallied supporters in Yerevan on Friday, again accusing President Serzh Sarkisian of seeking to “perpetuate” his rule and urging Armenians to reject his constitutional changes.
The “No Front” attracted a relatively small crowd to the city’s Liberty Square during its second rally against the changes envisaging Armenia’s transition to a parliamentary system of government after Sarkisian completes his second presidential term in 2018.
“If we vote for those changes it will be our last vote,” claimed Aram Manukian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), the largest of the opposition parties aligned in the grouping. “Such an outcome of the referendum [on the proposed constitutional amendments] … would constitutionally perpetuate Serzh Sarkisian’s and his Republican Party’s rule.”
“Do the citizens of Armenia want Serzh Sarkisian to govern Armenia perpetually?” said Arshak Musakhanian, a leader of the You Won’t Pass It opposition group that helped to cobble together the alliance last month.
The Armenian parliament held heated debates on Sarkisian’s constitutional package late last month and is expected to approve it next week. The approval will pave the way for a nationwide referendum on the amendments. Officials have said that the referendum will likely take place by early December.
The proposed amendments have been endorsed not only by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) but also by some opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament, leading senior HHK figures to declare that the Sarkisian administration has managed to muster broad-based political support for the controversial constitutional reform.
Speakers at Friday’s rally denied this assertion. “There is no consensus on the constitutional changes,” insisted Musakhanian.
The No Front launched its campaign with a rally held in Gyumri on September 25. It plans to hold such demonstrations across the country in the coming weeks.