Armenia to Amend Constitution Once Again, But Keep Parliamentary System

By Emilio Luciano Cricchio

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has initiated the establishment of a specialized commission on constitutional reform.

Justice Minister Rustam Badasyan told CivilNet that no change to the governance model is planned, and that Armenia will continue to be a parliamentary republic.

“A transition from a parliamentary system to either a presidential or semi-presidential system is not mentioned in our agenda,” the minister said.

“I don’t think that profound changes can be made often without stressing the entire public administration system. But there are other elements that are definitely subject to change,” said Badasyan.

Armenia's Justice Minister Rustam BadasyanAccording to the minister, the current model of a parliamentary stable-majority system should change. This system gives extra seats in the National Assembly to the highest-performing party or bloc after an election in order to ensure an absolute majority. 

“Of course, stability is very important, but it can be achieved through coalitions. When no political entity has garnered enough votes in the election to form a majority government, it should be able to negotiate a coalition.”

According to the minister, this system would help further democratize Armenia. 

Badasyan also stated that the government envisages changes to the judicial system, discussing “the sequence of steps needed to restore confidence in the highest courts of the land.”

The minister did not stipulate whether by “high court” he meant members of the Constitutional Court. Seven of the nine current members of the Constitutional Court, including Hrayr Tovmasyan, the President of the Court, were appointed by the former Republican Party government. The current government considers those judges to be remnants of the former regime, and despite serious efforts, has no legal means to remove them.

In the three decades since Armenia’s independence, there have been three constitutional amendments. In 1995, the country’s first constitution was adopted under a presidential system of governance. In 2005, Armenia switched to a semi-presidential system of government, much like the system in France. 

The last amendment to the constitution came in 2015, when incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan amended the constitution, replacing the semi-presidential system of government with a parliamentary one. This in effect allowed him to remain as prime minister after his second term as president expired. But the 2018 Velvet Revolution thwarted Sargsyan’s plans. He remained in office as prime minister for only six days and resigned on April 23, 2018, in the midst of mass protests.