Referendum in Armenia brings constitutional reforms
On 6 December, Armenia held a referendum on a wide package of constitutional reforms. The adopted constitutional amendments also include a re-definition of marriage to be a union between a man and a woman.
The constitutional reforms will reduce future presidents to a largely ceremonial role, strengthening the positions of the majority in parliament and the prime minister it elects. Presidents will be selected by parliament rather than the electorate, and will serve for seven years instead of the current five.
Opponents of the reforms claim that this apparent shift to a more democratic system is designed to ensure that the Republican Party stays in power, while its head Serzh Sargsyan is due to step down as Armenia’s president in 2018.
The opposition alleges that violations and fraud took place at the referendum on a large scale.
The adopted constitutional amendments also include a re-definition of marriage. Article 34 was amended to read as follows, “Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry with each other”. The addition of the words “with each other” fundamentally alters the meaning of the article, restricting marriage to persons of the opposite sex. This amendment enshrines discrimination in the constitution and in addition to marriage ban, may prevent any form of legal recognition of same-sex couples.