Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan appears to be orchestrating a plan to consolidate his power through a manipulative maneuver, as suggested by the leader of a political party allied with him on Friday.
Aram Sargsian of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party insinuated that Pashinyan’s proposed strategy—melding a referendum on a new Armenian constitution with snap general elections—smacks of a desperate bid to secure enough support for the constitution, which opponents argue is being unduly influenced by Azerbaijan.
Sargsian, a frequent confidant of the prime minister, voiced his concerns to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, highlighting the necessity of a substantial voter turnout to achieve a favorable outcome for the constitution. He stated, “To ensure a ‘yes’ vote, we need between 850,000 to one million people to cast their ballots, with at least 630,000 affirming [the constitution].” He further emphasized, “The only feasible scenario for such massive participation is during parliamentary and executive authorities elections.”
According to Armenian law, constitutional amendments must be ratified by a majority of voters participating in the referendum, representing at least one-quarter of the country’s approximately 2.5 million eligible voters.
Sargsian speculated that authorities are likely to expedite the referendum, potentially coinciding with fresh parliamentary elections, to expedite the process. He elaborated, “While a spring timeline is conceivable, the complexities of organizing a constitutional referendum suggest it may occur no later than this fall.”
Rumors have been swirling in Armenian media circles for months suggesting that Pashinyan may resort to early elections as a gambit to bolster his mandate for negotiating a peace treaty with Azerbaijan. However, Pashinyan rebuffed these allegations back in December.
Despite Sargsian’s assertions, two senior members of Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party rebuffed suggestions of early elections, dismissing them as unnecessary. Vahagn Aleksanian, a deputy chairman of Civil Contract, asserted, “We fail to see the urgency for premature elections.” Similarly, another influential figure within the ruling party, Vagharshak Hakobian, downplayed the notion of snap polls, citing a lack of “public demand,” and casting doubt on the likelihood of a constitutional referendum.
Pashinyan has been vocal in advocating for a new constitution that reflects the “evolving geopolitical dynamics” in the region, ostensibly to eliminate the preamble from the current constitution enacted in 1995.
The preamble makes reference to a 1990 declaration of independence adopted by Armenia’s inaugural post-Communist parliament, which in turn acknowledges a 1989 unification act passed by the legislative bodies of Soviet Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s recent remarks on February 1st underscored the pressure exerted on Armenia, suggesting that removing this reference is a prerequisite for peace negotiations. Armenian opposition leaders have seized upon Aliyev’s statement as evidence of Pashinyan’s subservience to Azerbaijani demands to revise the constitution. Pashinyan vehemently refuted these accusations once more on Wednesday.