Heated Debates on Proposed Constitutional Reforms Continue in Armenia’s Parliament

YEREVAN (ArmenPress/Yerkir)–Armenian lawmakers continued to debate constitutional reforms proposed by the President and the coalition government–but failed to meet the vote deadline–after their second and final reading.

The draft was harshly criticized by members of the opposition "National Unity" and "Justice" factions–who called on Armenia’s to reject the proposed amendmen’s during a national referendum in October.

But Levon Mkrtchian–the leader of Armenian Revolutionary Federation faction in parliament rejected the oppositions argumen’s that the proposed draft would be "tantamount to losing an opportune chance to advance reforms."

"These draft amendmen’s will enable us to become the most democratic country of the region," Mkrtchian told the parliament’s extraordinary session on constitutional amendmen’s.

He also noted that when presenting the amendmen’s to the public–politicians should be truthful in mentioning both the positive and the negative aspects of the charter.

"Today–we are determining the country’s future and not the issue of tomorrow’s rulers," Mkrtchian told the opposition.

The proposed reforms enjoy the backing of the Council of Europe–particularly its advisory body on constitutional law–the Venice Commission.

But the opposition Justice alliance’s Shavarsh Kocharian insisted that the draft does not include 16 of the key proposals by the Venice commission–including the issue of electing the capital’s mayor via direct polls.

The head of the Council of Europe office in Armenia–Bojana Urumova told parliament on Monday–however–that the Venice Commission "believes in [the] text and supports it fully." She was speaking on behalf of the Commission’s secretary Gianni Buquicchio.

The European Union and the United States also back the reforms. "The United States supports the efforts of all those who have been involved in the process of attempting to amend the current Armenian Constitution–and encourages all parties to engage in responsible and constructive debate on this issue," US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans said in a statement published by Yerevan newspapers on Saturday.

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