July the 5th is annually celebrated as the Day of Constitution in Armenia.
The independent republic adopted its basic law in the wake of a universal referendum in 1995. This anniversary, however, is different from all the previous ones, as the country has now made a transition to the parliamentary form of government. After the 2015 constitutional referendum, Armenia practically adopted a new model of forming parliament, switching over to the 100% proportional representation system.
Although December 6, 2015 is officially known to be the new Constitution’s effective date, the transitional provisions contained therein make the state and society still feel somewhat “between” two constitutions.
The new Constitution was first enforced in February when the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs elected the ombudsman. It will be implemented a second time during the local government elections in Yerevan and the second largest city of Gyumri. The new procedure requires that only political parties run for elections with proportional representation ballots.
Speaking to Tert.am, Edmon Marukuyan, a parliament member who is a lawyer by profession, said he sees differences between the Constitution’s text and the mechanisms of implementation. “[A lot depends on] who is responsible for the implementation and what political elite they shape ‘to bring the text to life’,” he said, not ruling out the possibility of discrepancies.
Marukyan stressed the importance of interpreting and implementing the basic law in good faith, admitting at the same time that the Republican Party of Armenia, as the only governing political force, has predominant positions over the other parties.
According to Artak Zeynalyan, a public and political figure specializing in legal studies, Armenia needs “two democratic elections” to give life to the new Constitution. In his words, officials still keep violating the basic law, ignoring particularly Article 3 thereof (establishing state guarantees to ensure fundamental human rights and freedoms).
Arthur Ghazinyan, the founder and head of the Yerevan State University’s Center for European Studies, says despite the Constitution’s 20-year history and the recent referendum, constitutional life hasn’t yet become constitutionalized among the citizens of Armenia.
“Constitution is not yet being perceived as a normative [legal] act regulating routine life in the human-to-human relationship or human-state dialogue. We haven’t to date developed that understanding; that’s a deep-rooted problem that has to be resolved over the course of years. And although the Constitution is cited in all the debates, people do not perceive and understand it. The population needs to understand that the constitution is the key normative act regulating their routine life as it does in Europe and the United States,” Ghazinyan added.