Polls Close in Constitutional Referendum

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Opposition Takes to the Streets

YEREVAN (A.W.)—A total of 1,296,368 people, around 50.51 percent of eligible voters, participated in today’s referendum on constitutional reforms according to preliminary figures released by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). The final results of the referendum are expected to be released by the CEC in the coming hours.

The final results of the referendum are expected to be released by the CEC in the coming hours (Photo: PanArmenian Photo)

Four international and 18 local observation missions monitored the vote, including a Civil Society Institute (CSI) mission (44 observers), CSI Inter-Parliamentary Commission (23 observers), a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) mission (11 observers), and an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) mission (5 observers), according to Civilnet.am. According the CEC, there were proxies, observers, or media representatives in 85 to 90 percent of the 1,997 election precincts throughout the country. There have been reports of violations and irregularities; authorities have said that they will pursue some of these claims.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) has been a strong proponent of the constitutional reforms. The party has advocated for a transition to a parliamentary system of government in Armenia since independence. Speaking to reporters after casting his ballot, ARF Bureau representative Hrant Markarian said that Armenia has the opportunity to form a new political framework with the possibility of real competition. “I’m confident that this is a new beginning for Armenia today,” he said.

Several hundred members and supporters of the opposition “New Armenia” movements, as well as supporters of other opposition groups that campaigned against constitutional changes, marched towards the CEC building in Yerevan shortly after the closure of ballots, late Sunday night. Demonstrators protested what they called a referendum that had been falsified by the authorities and were met with a heavy police presence. They are also calling for the annulment of the results of the referendum, which have yet to be released.

Demonstrators are calling for the annulment of the results of the referendum, which have yet to be released.

Raffi Hovannisian, member of the “New Armenia” opposition movement, tore his ballot at the polling station in protest. “The system, which is based on one person and one party that just want to strengthen their positions by this referendum, is unacceptable,” Hovannisian said, reported Reuters.

Armenia’s National Assembly approved the proposed package of constitutional reforms on Oct. 5, with a vote of 103 to 10. Three members of the National Assembly abstained.

The proposed reforms call for a shift from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary form of government. The reforms also look to introduce a governmental system in which the powers of the president are drastically reduced, and are almost only ceremonial. According to the proposal, Armenia’s president will be elected for a seven-year term (currently a five-year term) by parliament, not a national vote, and can only serve one term.

If passed, under the new system, Armenia would work with a 101-seat parliament with a 5-year term elected entirely by proportional representation. Under the current system of government, there are 131 members of parliament, with 41 elected in first-past-the-post constituencies and the rest by proportional representation.

Source: Armenian Weekly
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