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Referendum on Armenian Constitution

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  • Referendum on Armenian Constitution

    Europe on Watch as Armenia Goes to Referendum
    By Emre Demir, Cihan News Agency
    Published: Sunday, November 27, 2005
    zaman.com


    Europe as well awaits the outcome of the constitutional referendum in Armenia. The positive public response bears great importance for the Council of Europe (CE).

    The constitutional amendments were worked out according to the recommendations of the CE Venice Commission. CE Secretary General Terry Davis called the Armenian public to vote “yes” in the referendum. CE Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) President Rene Van der Linden warned Armenia would receive a serious blow in its path to Europe in case the referendum obtained a “no” outcome. If the amendment package is rejected, the CE can impose certain sanctions on Erivan and even consider expelling it from the CE. Joining the CE requires the acceptance of the principle of the supremacy of the law and the guaranteeing of the basic human rights and the freedoms of the citizens. CE had launched a process of reform in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, which were accepted as members in 2000.

    The referendum in Armenia received a noticeably low level of international observer participation. The European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) did not send any observers to the referendum and CE sent a team of 18 observers. The elections held on November 6 in Azerbaijan however were followed by 1,500 observers from various international organizations.

    The referendum in Armenia is important also in relation with the Daglık Karabag (Nagarno- Karabakh) issue. If a “yes” results is obtained from the referendum, Armenia can regain the international support it had lost. The dissatisfaction of the international observers by the November 6 elections at Azerbaijan was described as a negative development for Azerbaijan. CE had proclaimed Armenia as the occupying state in Nagarno-Karabakh in the report it had approved in January. Armenian President Robert Kocharian had expressed the importance of the referendum in the following way: “These constitutional amendments will increase our influence in the international arena and we will find more supporters in relation with the Nagarno-Karabakh issue.”






    Strasbourg
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  • #2
    Armenia: Referendum Voting Gets Under Way

    Armenia: Referendum Voting Gets Under Way



    A pro-referendum demonstration in Yerevan
    (epa)


    Armenians today vote in a controversial constitutional referendum, which the opposition has denounced as an attempt by President Robert Kocharian to strengthen his power. Yet, the proposed constitutional changes have the backing of the international community, which says they are essential to Armenia's further democratization. The opposition has nevertheless called for a boycott.


    Prague, 27 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Polling stations in Armenia opened at 0800 local time.

    Among the first voters who cast their ballots was President Robert Kocharian.

    Addressing reporters at a Yerevan polling station, he implicitly urged Armenian citizens to back changes that he described as democratic.

    "Today, people in Armenia face this choice -- either to have more balance of power between the branches of government, or to keep a strong presidential system," Kocharian said.

    To add weight to his remarks, Kocharian openly displayed his "Yes" ballot paper before television cameras.

    Opposition parliamentarian Viktor Dalakian criticized the gesture as an infringement of the existing legislation.

    "Kocharian has violated the Second Article of the Law on Referendums and Article Three of the constitution. These articles forbid open voting. By openly voting, the president is actually instructing others to vote 'Yes.' We regard this as a violation," Dalakian said.

    In theory, the proposed changes are meant to transfer part of the president's prerogatives to the parliament, the government, and strengthen the judiciary. They will also allow millions of diaspora Armenians to obtain citizenship in the Southern Caucasus country.

    Foreign Support

    The European Union, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, and the United States have backed the proposed changes, saying they are vital to the reform process in Armenia. On paper at least, the changes are in line with the commitments Armenia undertook when it joined the Council of Europe in 2001.

    Opposition leaders say Kocharian has no right to modify the constitution. They say that's because he came to power in 1998 and has consolidated his rule through rigged presidential and legislative polls. They have called for a boycott, claiming the changes in reality aim at strengthening Kocharian's powers

    Yesterday, several hundred people demonstrated in central Yerevan to denounce the upcoming vote.

    Defense Minister Serzh Sargsian -- whom many in Armenia see as a potential successor to Kocharian -- today ridiculed the opposition for failing to gather larger crowds against the referendum.

    "If I organize any meeting and cannot have at least 1,000 people there in attendance, I would not commit suicide, of course. But I would definitely be very ashamed and unable to look into people's eyes," Sargsian said.

    Regional political analysts believe apathy among Armenian voters is the greatest challenge faced by Kocharian and his political allies.

    RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports that 200,000 voters have taken part in the vote as of 1200 local time. The polls close at 2000 local time.

    To take effect, the constitutional changes must be endorsed by at least one-third of Armenia's 2.3 million registered voters and 50 percent of the actual voters.

    To boost the turnout, the government earlier this month printed copies of the draft constitution, saying it would try to deliver them to every single family in the country.

    Claiming the government will be unable to secure a high turnout, the opposition says it suspects authorities of seeking to rig the vote.

    It has threatened to take to the streets in case of fraud.

    Kocharian today said the referendum will be "free and fair" and pledged to respect any outcome of the vote.
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    • #3
      Armenia holds referendum on constitution change

      Armenia holds referendum on constitution change
      27/11/2005 11:40

      YEREVAN, November 27 (RIA Novosti, Gamlet Matevosyan) - A referendum on constitutional reform opened in Armenia, the republican central electoral commission said Sunday.

      Armenians will cast their votes on a package of constitutional amendments intended to increase the parliament's role in the country's governance and make the judiciary more independent from the executive branch.

      The amendments also include a proposal to introduce double citizenship, which is especially important for Armenia with its large ethnic diaspora worldwide.

      The amendments have to be backed by at least one third of Armenia's voters.

      The opposition parties are boycotting the referendum after refusing to participate in the process of drafting constitutional reforms.
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      • #4
        Armenia votes in Europe-backed plan to cut president's power

        Armenia votes in Europe-backed plan to cut president's power

        Sun Nov 27, 7:39 AM ET



        Armenians have voted in a referendum on a constitutional reform backed by the Council of Europe that would curtail the powers of the president and increase those of parliament, while the opposition called on voters to boycott.

        Polling stations opened at 08:00 am (0400 GMT) Sunday across Armenia and were to remain open until 8:00 pm (1600 GMT), with preliminary results expected late Sunday.

        Armenia's 2.3 million voters are to approve, or reject, a text that would decrease presidential powers and increase those of parliament and the government, strengthen judicial independence and allow millions of diaspora Armenians to obtain citizenship by scrapping a ban on dual citizenship.



        The reforms were drafted with the assistance of experts from the Council of Europe, of which Armenia is a member, and the body called on voters to approve them.

        "This is an occasion for Armenians to show their commitment to Europe," the head of the council's Parliamentary Assembly, Rene van der Linden, said recently.

        The reforms are part of Armenia's commitments before the council, which could take disciplinary measures against Armenia if the vote fails, as happened two years ago when a similar referendum was declared invalid because of low turnout.

        To be adopted, the reform needs more than one-third of registered voters to cast ballots, with a majority of those in favour.

        But the opposition, which unites 18 parties and non-governmental organisations, has called on voters to boycott the referendum, saying it will legitimise the regime of President Robert Kocharian.

        He first came to power in 1998 and was re-elected in 2003 in a vote that many observers said was marred by fraud.

        As he cast his ballot at a school, Kocharian declined to predict an outcome but seemed to suggest that he would not mind if voters rejected the proposed reform.

        "Today the people of Armenia face a choice," he said.

        "I don't want to predict the outcome. But if the constitutional amendment does not pass, this means we will retain strong presidential power, and President Kocharian will continue doing what he's been doing," he said, referring to himself in the third person.

        The opposition was to hold a rally in Yerevan late Sunday, one hour before the polling stations close.

        The head of one of Yerevan's polling stations, Gamlet Tadevosian, said two opposition election commission members had boycotted the opening of the voting center.

        "All members started to work, except for those belonging to the opposition," said Tadevosian, who heads polling station 23.
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        • #5
          Returns of 1353 Polling Stations: 93.2% of Voters Said «Yes»

          28.11.2005 09:19 GMT+04:00
          /PanARMENIAN.Net/ According to the returns of the vote in 1353 polling stations in Armenia and abroad, 1 001 775 out 1 525 425 constituents took part in the referendum, i.e. 65.7%. Out of these 933 182 (93.2%) voted for passing the constitutional amendments, while 57 117 (5.7%) were against. 16 988 ballots were recognized invalid.

          It should also be noted that the number of polling stations in Armenia totals 1878, while there are 44 stations in forty cities of 28 countries. For the referendum to be recognized as taken place it is necessary that 767 thousand persons take part in it. This number makes 1/3 of the total number of constituency in Armenia (i.e. 2 301 828). The CEC has ordered the printing of 2 million 334 thousand 300 ballots for the referendum.
          "All truth passes through three stages:
          First, it is ridiculed;
          Second, it is violently opposed; and
          Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

          Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

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          • #6
            The High Activity Of Armenian Citizens

            THE HIGH ACTIVITY OF ARMENIAN CITIZENS ON THE REFERENDUM PROVED THAT THE PEOPLE IS NOT INDIFFERENT TO ITS FUTURE

            YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 27. ARMINFO. Mher Shahgeldian, the head of the referendum Organization Committee, the head of the Parliamentary Committee for Defense and National Security, said that the high activity of Armenian citizens on the referendum proved that the people is interested in the reforms and is not indifferent to its future.

            The ARFD member, the chairman of the parliamentary commission on foreign relations Armen Rustamyan says that the high turnout was expected as the greater part of the population had been well informed of the content of the reforms due to active campaign. Despite difference in strategies both the authorities and the opposition promoted high popular awareness of the reforms.

            By actively voting in the referendum the Armenian people has proved that it is not indifferent to its fate. "We should preserve this high activity till the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2007-2008," says Rustamyan. He notes that the opposition chose a wrong strategy by first urging the people to vote against the reforms and then when realizing the impossibility of this by calling on them to boycott the referendum.

            Tigran Torosian, deputy speaker of RA National Assembly, stated that all the attempts of the opposition to fail the referendum were doomed to failure, as the publiciy of Armenia turned out to be more conscious than most of the political figures. "The opposition's strategy to boycot the referendum reminded a retreat from the battle field," he said. "All the facts brought by the opposition on violations during the referendum are groundless, as they didn't have representatives in the polling stations during the voting," Torosian said. He emphasized that the coalition doesn't say that the voting process was a perfect one or not a single problem occured during that. In order to make any conclusions, one should take into account all the complaints and protocoles of the polling stations. "At least, the local and international organizations followed the process of voting and they will also publish their conclusion," Torosian said. In his turn, Mher Shahgeldian stated that most of the opposition representatives participated in the referendum, carrying out the mission envisaged by the law.

            According to RA CEC, over 64% of RA citizens participated in the referendum. 95,1% of them voted "for" the reforms, while 4% voted "against."

            ACCORDING TO 66 POLLING STATIONS
            "All truth passes through three stages:
            First, it is ridiculed;
            Second, it is violently opposed; and
            Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

            Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

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