President Robert Kocharian’s Western-backed efforts to amend the Armenian constitution suffered a setback on Thursday when the country’s largest opposition group vowed to campaign against the passage of his draft constitutional changes at a national referendum due in November.
The Artarutyun (Justice) bloc argued that the authorities have refused to meet any of their demands for more serious limits on the sweeping powers enjoyed by the president of the republic. Its leaders also appeared to have bridged their simmering differences on the issue that threatened the unity of the nine-party alliance.
The Artarutyun bloc has made its support for the reform conditional on the authorities’ acceptance of three specific amendments. The most important of them is the removal of a draft amendment giving the Armenian president the right to dissolve parliament if the latter twice rejects prime ministers nominated by him. Artarutyun leaders say this provision would nullify other changes giving more powers to the National Assembly.
Artarutyun also demands a direct election of the Yerevan mayor by the city residents. But Kocharian and his coalition want the mayor to be chosen by an elected municipal council. A recent opinion poll found that the overwhelming majority of Yerevan residents want their future mayors to be directly elected by voters.
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