Day of Silence in Armenia as Politically Charged Referendum Takes Place

The referendum campaign in Armenia has come to an end with Armenia’s citizens heading to the polling stations tomorrow to decide on a semi-presidential system or parliamentary system.

In other words, where they will decide whether they want to live in a more authoritarian country or not.

Supporters of the opposition and government concluded their campaign after meeting with Armenian residents across the country. The final accord of the Armenian opposition was on the country's symbolic Freedom square. The leaders of the opposition called their supporters to actively participate in the referendum and reject the new constitutional project suggested by the president.

They claim it will prolong the rule of Serzh Sargsyan, whose last presidential term is coming to the end in 2018. The opposition argues the proposal includes serious probability an authoritarian mono-party system will be established as a result.

The country’s leading lawyers have backed the opposition’s arguments, releasing a video exposing the dangers and risks the new constitutional project will include. The group has called on the population to reject the project, which they consider a step backward. The group also believes it may endanger civic rights and Armenia’s political system.

President Sargsyan, who publicly promised Armenians in April 2014 he would not run for any other government position after the end of his last presidential term, hinted he may actually run for a new position, during a press-conference December 3rd. His remarks confirm the opposition’s concerns changing the constitution is aimed to enable Sargsyan staying in power after his presidential term concludes.

Meanwhile, police forces are blocking protestors on Freedom square, initiated by the supporters of the New Armenia opposition coalition, to hold non-stop demonstrations and camp out on the square in -8 Degrees Celcius. The protestors demand Sargsyan’s resignation and ask the government to suspend the referendum.

The opposition alliance New Armenia, which unites a number of small opposition parties, has called on the public to mobilize at 8pm on the day of the Referendum. One of New Armenia’s leaders, Jirayr Sefilyan, a legendary general of the Kharabakh war, said this day will be decisive.

He added that they are ready to take radical actions to oppose the change of constitution, as they believe the government will falsify the results of the referendum.

A number of prominent local NGO's observing the referendum campaign, such as Transparency international Armenia, Vanadzor's Helsinki Association, Europe of rights, and Gyumri's Aspares club, have registered a number of violations of the electoral code and use of administrative resources during the referendum campaign.

The NGO’s have found a suspiciously high amount of registered voters on the official lists, including a number of non-existing and several deceased people.

In addition, the press has thus far exposed threats against the representatives of the election committees appointed by opposition parties who said to have been suggested to accept bribes, have been threatened to lose their jobs, or have received threats regarding their relatives.

The United headquarters of NO has recorded a number of hidden camera videos in which suspects were detained by the police for the attempting to bribe a member of the election committee.

Karen Tovmasyan

05 December 2015 17:59