A controversial referendum in Armenia on December 6 endorsed constitutional changes that will transform the country into a parliamentary republic. But allegations of rampant fraud are clouding the legitimacy of the result.
Based on preliminary data, 63 percent of roughly 1.3 million participating voters, about half of Armenia’s population, agreed to change Armenia from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary republic. Overall, the referendum approved over 200 changes to the constitution.
“We are pleased with the participation,” senior Republican Party of Armenia MP Samvel Nikolian told reporters. “This means that our public is very active. They are interested in constitutional changes and are not indifferent toward the future of our state.”
The changes will go into effect after the 2017 parliamentary elections. Critics contend that if President Serzh Sargsyan’s Republican Party of Armenia again wins that vote, the revised constitution will allow it to nominate President Sargsyan for an unprecedented third term in office. Sargsyan, 61, who steps down in 2018, has denied he has any such ambition.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am.