A constitutional referendum is expected to be held in Armenia in the near future, which the authorities justify by the intention to “deepen and strengthen democracy”.
Let us see to what extent citizens’ direct public administration levers increase or decrease by the new draft constitution.
- By the current Constitution, citizens who have the right to vote can participate in 5 elections, and citizens of Yerevan can participate in 4 elections – the presidential elections, proportional representation and majority parliamentary elections, community head and community council elections. However, by the new Draft Constitution, citizens can participate only in two elections: parliamentary elections for proportional representation, and community council elections.
- This means that the Armenian citizens are not going to elect the president of the country. Instead, the National Assembly is going to take on that function and, moreover, the president’s term of office will be 7 years. Besides, by the new draft constitution, the right of election of city and village mayors may also be alienated from the citizens and reserved to the city or village council only.
- The draft constitution stipulates that the National Assembly will no longer have MPs elected by the majority system. It means that there will no longer be MPs who represent particular constituencies and who are more accountable to the voters of that particular constituency.
- The proposed draft stipulates that residents of villages and towns can initiate a local referendum, but it must first get the approval of the Council. It is worth mentioning that the right for a local referendum has been present in Armenia for as many as 13 years. However, to this day, not a single local referendum has been held by the initiative of residents in any of the communities.
- Unlike the current constitution, the draft sets the system of civil legislative initiative for the first time. This assumes that any bill can enter the National Assembly and can be discussed once it has gathered 50 thousand signatures… However, both by the current constitution and by the draft, it is much easier to carry out the aforementioned procedure by the signature of a single MP instead of gathering signatures of 50 thousand citizens.
- And though the bill proposed by the people can be put to referendum if it is not passed by the National Assembly, signatures of 350 thousand people and the consent of the Constitutional Court will be necessary for that. Moreover, the scope of issues that can be put to referendum in that way is very limited.
- Since 1995, the Constitution can be adopted or its parts can be changed only through a national referendum. However, by the proposed new draft, a large part of the constitution can be changed by the National Assembly without holding a referendum.
- And finally, by the current Constitution, citizens have the participatory right of public administration through their directly elected representatives. And though that right is declarative in nature, it is completely eliminated in the new draft constitution.
“Union of Informed Citizens”