Constitutional Reform: CC Chairman says Commission approves concept of amendments

The Commission on Constitutional Reform has discussed and approved the new concept of constitutional changes that Armenian authorities say are very much relevant today.

During a Friday press conference Chairman of the Constitutional Court (CC) Gagik Harutyunyan presented the results of the meeting of the Commission on Constitutional Reform (CCR) the previous day, saying that the commission finished drafting the first part of the amended constitution; the draft will be presented to the public by the end of this month.

“The biggest objective is the one of rule of law, as well as having a human-centered constitution. One of the other big issues is that human rights and basic freedoms are guaranteed. For that detailed work was necessary, that work is already done and presented to the discussion of the Venice Commission. The Venice Commission created an expert group who are holding discussions,” the CC president said, adding that the Commission already gave their conclusions on the already discussed sections, according to which, the Commission is consistent toward the objectives presented in the concept, they overall agree, but they still have some remarks which must be discussed.

According to Harutyunyan, constitutional changes are a necessity because in the current situation when the evolution of constitutional development is limited and if reforms are not carried out the Constitution will appear in stagnation.

As for opposition concerns that constitutional changes in the country will contribute to the reproduction of the government, Harutyunyan said that if the current government wants to reproduce itself it can do so even easier with the current constitution, rather than in case of reforms.

The CC chairman said that there were no discussions with political parties so far because the commission members are not yet ready, and they decided that at the beginning of June discussions will be held with all 14 political parties that made proposals on the concept.

“We had two meetings with the Armenian Revolutionary Party (ARF) and National Self-Determination Union Party representatives; here, detailed discussions were held on the introduced packages. We had a meeting also with Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) representatives; they had some restrictions saying that they will participate in substantive discussions regarding only the chapters on the system of government and human rights. This was the result of the first meeting, we are not aware of what the final decision will look like,” Harutyunyan said refraining from mentioning any dates of holding a referendum on constitutional amendments. He said in fall they will finish the work on their part, but after that it will still have to be presented to the president.

Earlier there was speculation that the referendum could be held as early as in autumn or at the beginning of 2016.

The document on constitutional changes has been discussed since last summer in provincial and local administration centers and on October 15 last year it was presented to the president, who, in March, held discussions with representatives of political forces (the opposition Armenian National Congress did not meet the president, saying the party opposed the changes from the outset).