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Pashinyan says Armenia ‘needs new constitution’

22 January 2024
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has suggested the country needs an entirely new constitution, in a move critics have attributed to pressure from Azerbaijan.

Pashinyan first voiced his call for a new constitution on 18 January during a visit to the Ministry of Justice, claiming that the idea was previously discussed at the Ministry of Justice.

‘During one or two working discussions with the Minister of Justice, I recorded that in my opinion and that of a number of colleagues, and I am voicing this opinion so that it becomes the subject of a wider discussion, the Republic of Armenia needs a new Constitution, not Constitutional amendments, but a new Constitution’, said Pashinyan.

He cited two reasons for his proposal to adopt a new constitution: that Armenia’s constitution should be adopted by a fair referendum, and that the country needed a constitution that would make it ‘more competitive and more viable in the new geopolitical and regional conditions.’

‘I wanted to emphasise this so that we can devote ourselves to such work in the near future’, said Pashinyan.

During a meeting with his party in Yeghegnadzor on 20 January, Pashinyan elaborated that Yerevan and Baku had reached a point in peace talks where they wanted ‘additional guarantees’ that neither party ‘harbours territorial claims and hidden ambitions’.

‘Diplomatic texts always have different twists, subtexts, and footnotes. In the footnotes of Azerbaijan’s proposals, and perhaps Azerbaijan in ours, observe the dangers of territorial claims, if not today, then in the future,’ Pashinyan said.

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The first paragraph of Armenia’s constitution states the country adopted the constitution is based on the ‘fundamental principles of the Armenian Statehood and the nation-wide objectives enshrined in Armenia’s Declaration of Independence.

One of the bases expressed in the declaration is a joint decision by the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Karabakh Council to ‘reunify the Armenian SSR and the Mountainous Region of Karabakh’.

‘Pressure from Baku’

The move by Pashinyan has been widely interpreted as related to ongoing peace talks with Azerbaijan and the aftermath of Azerbaijan taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023.

Tigran Grigoryan, a political analyst and the head of the Regional Centre for Democracy and Security in Yerevan, said that Pashinyan’s calls for a new constitution could have stemmed from statements by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who in December said he expected guarantees from Yerevan against ‘Armenian revanchism’.

He cited an analysis of his from December, where he argued that ‘there is a high probability that one of the guarantees mentioned by Aliyev is that Yerevan gets rid of that normative legal background’.

Grigoryan cited Rusif Huseynov an Azerbaijani pro-government expert, as saying that Armenia’s legislation includes territorial claims against Azerbaijan, ‘and normative legal documents, such as the Declaration of Independence of Armenia adopted on 21 September 1990, refer to the 1989 joint decision on the unification of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh’.

‘This legal background causes concern in Azerbaijan, where scenarios are predicted in which the Armenian Constitutional Court may reject the peace treaty or a subsequent change of power may raise territorial claims’, wrote Huseynov. 

Many in Armenia’s opposition have criticised the move. In a joint statement, four MPs from the opposition Armenia faction viewed Pashinyan’s statement as a veiled message to Azerbaijan and Turkey. 

The four said that Ankara and Baku had long asked Armenia to remove ‘provisions on supporting the right of self-determination of the people of Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] and pursuing the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.’

‘We note that with this step, Pashinyan is trying to initiate a new attack on one of the pillars of the Third Republic of Armenia, preparing the ground for the satisfaction of another of the incessant Turkish-Azerbaijani demands,’ read their statement.

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