Debates after the referendum in Armenia

A referendum was held in Armenia on Sunday and people said ‘yes’ to constitutional amendments for transition to parliamentary system, but the debates still continue. Thinking that this amendment serves for Sargsyan’s maintaining his power, the opposition claims that there was an electoral fraud.

A referendum is held in Armenia on Sunday and people said ‘yes’ to constitutional amendments which has been discussed for a long time. 

According to the information from the Armenian Electoral Commission, the voter turnout is 51%. The referendum passed with 66.2% of voters who supported the proposed amendments.

The most important item in the amendments is the one that would change the country from having a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary republic. According to the opponents, this has nothing to do with a constitutional change; rather, this is a “solution” that was developed by Sargsyan and his “minions” in order to maintain their power, since it is impossible for Sargsyan to be elected again under the current constitution. In recent months, Sargsyan rejected the claims of the opponents by stating that he won’t be run for presidency in the new term, if the amendments would be accepted.

The opposition block protested the referendum, before the results were declared officially. Consisting of 2000 people, the opposition block claimed that there is an electoral fraud and the observers were subjected to violence. They say that the referendum should be annulled. Heritage Party, People's Party of Armenia and the members of Armenian National Congress led by the first president of Armenia Levon Ter Petrosyan attended the protests. Chair of Heritage Party Raffi Hovhannisyan said that they will keep protesting until the referendum is annulled.


Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan defined the referendum as a “major crime”. He said: “I went for voting late in the evening on purpose. There were major violations; I realized that while I was voting and after I talked to journalists, citizens and foreign observers. The right to self-determination of people in Armenia is violated once again.”

US Embassy in Erivan made a statement: “The change in the system will be very effective. The reports prepared by the political parties and observers on the violations are really worrisome. The reports should be examined carefully in order to convince people that the results are fair and legitimate.”

Lost votes   

The statements of İvan Ardhalcıyan, an observer from Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), left its mark in Armenia: “Our party supported the amendments, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t defend the rights of the opponents. At first, everything was going fine, but when it came to counting the votes, things got complicated. When we were almost done with counting, new observers came out of nowhere. They started a fight, punched people and left. After couple of minutes, the head of the polling clerks left with a lame excuse. Then, we realized that opposing votes are gone.”

Political scientist Armen Grigoryan said, “We know that the referendum wouldn’t have passed, if there weren’t any violations; and the government also knows this. They are aware that there is a big opposition block. People are hopeless and they don’t believe that there can be any change, but any change is possible if we try.”

Elections in 2018  

Majority of people in Armenia thinks that the referendum is a solution developed by Sargsyan who doesn’t want to meet the same fate with former presidents Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Robert Koçaryan. Prominent figures of opposition block think that opponents failed to proceed by common action. And everybody knows that the referendum won’t be annulled. Now, the biggest chance of the opposition will be the elections in 2018.

Role of Dashnaktsutyun

Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) campaigned for supporting the amendments with Republican Party of Armenia and Spartak Seyranyan from ARF said: “Saying no to this change is unreasonable. If we get a chance to change the system that all citizens complain about, how could we say no to that? I find it hard to understand how people who criticize the old system don’t want a new system. Then, they should stop complaining about the current system.”

Ethnologist Hranush Kharatyan thinks that Dashnaktsutyun is responsible for the results. He said: “Dashnaktsutyun is as guilty as Republican Party of Armenia; they are partners in crime now. Though they say that they only supported the amendments, they are equally responsible for the violations.”


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Aline Ozinian