Armenia Votes on Giving President’s Powers to Prime Minister

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
December 6, 2015 Updated: December 6, 2015

YEREVAN, Armenia—Armenia held a referendum Sunday on proposed constitutional changes that would give more powers to the prime minister and parliament at the expense of the president, who would become largely a figurehead.

The opposition has seen the reform as an attempt by President Serzh Sargsyan to extend his rule. Sargsyan has denied the claim, saying he has no intention of shifting into the prime minister’s seat after his current second term ends in 2018.

Presidents in Armenia can serve for a maximum of two five-year terms.

Sargsyan’s government has promoted the constitutional changes as a step toward strengthening democracy in the former Soviet state by providing for a greater balance of powers and a stronger judicial branch. Judges would no longer be appointed by the president, but by parliament.

Under the proposed changes, the president would have largely symbolic powers and would be elected by parliament.

Sunday’s referendum took place two months after it was approved by Armenia’s parliament in a 104-10 vote, with three abstentions. Opposition parties represented in parliament support the reform, as they believe it will give them a greater say in how the country is governed.

The more radical opposition, however, has strongly criticized the proposed changes and has held a number of protests that have brought a few thousand people onto the streets.

Results from the referendum were expected on Monday. More than 2.5 million people are eligible to vote.