“Democratic governance will disappear and power will be concentrated exclusively in the hands of one institution” – Sergey Gabrielyan

SergeyNoPasaran talks to Sergey Gabrielyan, president of the Nor Seround charitable NGO 

Is there public demand for constitutional change today in Armenia? 

I believe that changes to the constitution are not conditioned on objective necessity but rather reflect the interests of one individual that cannot be justified or take precedence over the interests of society. Thus, I oppose these changes. 

There are many unresolved problems in our country, but the proposed changes aren’t conditioned on objective necessity. There could have been such changes in the proposed draft that could have improved the lot of many in the country. 

  • One important unresolved issue is that of job creation and raising wages. There’s also the matter of lowering taxes. But the country, due to individual officials, has amassed such debt that it must collect unsubstantiated taxes to dig itself out of this hole. 
  • Large-scale emigration from Armenia is taking place, and it’s unfortunate that changes aren’t being made to guarantee people jobs but rather the opposite. Changes are only made when it suits personal interests, because the right to work isn’t guaranteed, only the freedom to work. 

What dangers do you see in the constitutional change draft bill? 

Clauses envisaged in various international conventions are violated, especially: 

1. According to Article 41(2) in the bill freedom can only be restricted by law; with the aim of defending national security, public order, health and morality, and the fundamental freedoms and the rights of others. In the current constitution, however, the issue of national security as a basis to restrict freedom isn’t mentioned.

2. In Article 21, Part 2 of the constitution it clearly states that a person charged with a crime is not obligated to prove his innocence. In the draft on changes, this article contains a number of dangers. For example, a person does not reveal who has committed a crime out of concern for his or his family’s safety. Later the identity of the real criminal is revealed. In the context of the article, a wrongly convicted person cannot receive compensation for the time he spent behind bars. A very important principle is being overlooked here – that a person charged with a crime is not obligated to prove his innocence. 

What negative impact will result if the changes are adopted? 

The institution of checks and balances will disappear and there will be no mutual oversight. 

All the branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) will be controlled by one body and all power will rest in the National Assembly. The office’s of Armenia’s president and prime minister will be in name only and have no essential powers. 

Thus, the people’s right to the franchise will be restricted since the people will no longer execute the governance of the country. Democratic governance will disappear and power will be concentrated exclusively in the hands of one institution. 

So what must e done to stop the changes? 

To defeat the referendum we must implement an active ‘no’ campaign and conduct election monitoring.