YEREVAN — Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has signed a decree setting December 6 as the date for the country’s referendum to change the constitution in order to establish a parliamentary republic.

Sarkisian made the move on October 8, days after parliament voted on October 5 to hold such a referendum.

To pass, the amendments will have to be approved by the majority of referendum participants making up at least one-quarter of Armenia’s 2.5 million or so eligible voters. It needs to garner at least 620,000 votes.

Hundreds of opposition activists had for several days been protesting against the constitutional changes.

The reform opponents maintain that the proposed amendments to the Armenian constitution are aimed at enabling Sarkisian to indefinitely stay in power in a different capacity after the end of his second and final presidential term in 2018.

Sarkisian has denied this, saying that he will not become prime minister or parliament speaker in case of Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic. The president, his HHK and other political allies say that such a radical change would on the contrary decentralize power and facilitate the country’s democratization.

According to the proposed changes, presidential powers will be transferred to the parliament and the president will no longer be elected via a direct vote of the people but rather by parliament.

The presidential term would also be extended from five to seven years.

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