Constitutional Reforms More Important than Confrontation Says Rustamian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL-Yerkir)–Armen Rustamian–who heads Armenian parliament’s foreign relations committee–warned that a rejection of proposed constitutional amendmen’s at a referendum in November would lead the Council of Europe and the European Union to conclude that Armenia’s are unwilling to embrace "European values," putting the country "not only in an unpleasant–but also ridiculous situation," he said.

Failure to pass the amendmen’s would be construed as a general failure–Rustamian told a news conference. "It wouldn’t matter at all who is to blame for that–the government or the opposition. For they [the Europeans] believe that if this document is not adopted–Armenia won’t able to carry on with its reform program."

Rustamian also argued that Armenia’s controversial post-Soviet constitution–widely criticized for giving disproportionate powers to the president of the republic–is a serious obstacle to its democratization.

The Council of Europe–the EU as well as the United States similarly link constitutional reform to the democratization of Armenia’s political system. They say Kocharian’s constitutional draft does provide for a more effective system of checks and balances.

But the Armenian opposition insists that the amendmen’s would not significantly curtail the sweeping presidential powers. The opposition views the referendum also as an opportunity to make another attempt to topple the ruling regime.

Rustamian–who heads the Armenian Revolutionary Federation for Armenia–deplored the opposition stance–saying success of the referendum is necessary for the entire country and not just its leadership.

Opinion polls suggest that winning sufficient popular backing for the amendmen’s will be an uphill task for the Administration. But Rustamian said he believes the authorities can convinced a majority of Armenia’s to vote for them–indicating that ARF has already drawn up a relevant plan of action.

"When campaigning gets underway–the ARF will come up a comprehensive and clear opinion on what it expects from that constitution–what its approaches and tactic are," said Rustamian.

Speaking about the recent passage of two Armenian Genocide resolutions in the House International Relations Committee and the State Department’s reaction–Rustamian said they enjoy the backing of many members of Congress and is confident that the resolutions will likely pass in the House of Representatives–despite White House resistance.

On a settlement to the Mountainous Karabagh conflict–he stressed that Armenia’s leadership endorses a solution based on three principles: that Mountainous Karabagh cannot be under the Azerbaijan’s rule; it should have a common border with Armenia; and the security of the people of Karabagh must be guaranteed.

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