VENICE — The European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) has released its preliminary opinion on the draft amendments to chapters 1 to 7 and 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia., criticizing the provision of a so-called “second round” in parliamentary elections aimed at forming a “stable majority”.

In their conclusion experts of the Venice Commission welcome the work conducted by the Armenian Constitutional Reform Commission, but also made certain proposals on how to improve the draft constitutional changes.

In chapters 1-7 of the draft new Constitution published in Armenia earlier this month local constitutional law experts suggest turning Armenia into a parliamentary republic with a largely ceremonial president. At the same time, one of the provisions dealing with the formation of the parliament suggests that if no party or bloc of parties can achieve an outright majority, a second round of elections should be held between the two parties or blocs of parties having the largest number of votes. Authors of the new Constitution explain that this way a “stable” majority will always be assured, which will ensure the stable work of the government and eventually the stability of the political system as a whole.

In the judicial system the Venice Commission considers it inadmissible that a political body should interfere in the appointments and dismissals of judges and chairmen of courts of cassation.

The CE’s advisory body has made some recommendations for the further improvement of the draft highlighting notably the following points:

– limitations to the right to vote and the right to be a candidate for the National Assembly should be lifted;

– the electoral system should not be set out in detail in the Constitution: the possibility of a second round between the two most voted parties of alliances should be removed;

– the prohibition of forming new factions in the Assembly during the whole term of a legislature should be removed as it would limit the free mandate of Members of Parliament;

– as concerns the Judiciary, there should be no interference of a political organ in the procedure of dismissal of judges and in the appointment of judges and court chairpersons of the Court of Cassation.

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