Coronavirus protected Armenian constitution
The worldwide spread of the COVID-19 virus affects political life. The parliamentary elections scheduled for April 13 have been canceled. The referendum on reducing the number of deputies, which was supposed to be held on March 29 in Italy, was also canceled. In Iran, the virus has captured a significant part of the republic’s political elite.
This week, the Central Election Commission of Armenia announced that it was stopping preparations for a referendum on constitutional amendments, despite the fact that a week ago, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan assured the public that the spread of the virus was under control and that there was nothing to hold a referendum on time threatens.
Armenian opposition jokingly said that the coronavirus stood up for the constitution. Indeed, he COVID-19 had the strongest opposition to Pashinyan, one of the opposition Armenian politicians.
The opposition’s passivity is demonstrated by inaction when it comes to the formation of a coordinated opposition to the referendum. There was no one who was able to unite the opposition forces, taking responsibility, and explain to the public on points what the illegitimacy of the forthcoming will is. However, this does not prevent skeptics from militantly criticizing Pashinyan on social networks and numerous interviews. The opposition does not seek to unite even around the figure of the current chairman of the Constitutional Court of Armenia Hrayr Tovmasyan, indirectly confirming the charges against him. Each for himself determines the most winning strategy, since no one doubts that the referendum will definitely be held.
Meanwhile, Pashinyan had time to properly conduct a reconnaissance of forces. The success of the referendum can be determined by two conditions: a long campaign, during which critics of the will exhaust their counterarguments and no longer pose a threat, as well as an early vote at the most right time. Since the beginning of this year, Pashinyan and his team had little time for campaigning, and against the backdrop of general hysteria caused by the rampant spread of the coronavirus, it will be extremely difficult for Pashinyan to maintain the necessary emotional atmosphere in advance of the referendum. Moreover, Pashinyan did not want to give the opposition an opportunity to criticize him for the fact that, for the sake of his political line, he neglected measures to prevent the virus, allowing a mass event during the epidemic.
The decision to postpone the referendum is an exclusively demonstrative measure. The leadership of the republic will refer to the current constitution, as well as the state of emergency introduced in the country, according to which a referendum can be held no earlier than 50 and no more than 65 days after the end of a martial law or state of emergency. During this time, the authorities will demonstrate a successful fight against the consequences of the spread of coronavirus, the number of cases will not exceed a critical mark, those infected will be cured. Pashinyan personally promised to isolate himself immediately in case of infection, demonstrating decisiveness and at the same time proximity to the people, since the likelihood of infection of the Armenian prime minister, according to his administration, could be caused by short-term contact with an Armenian citizen who returned from Italy.
The postponement of the referendum does not mean the abolition of the presidential election in the self-proclaimed NKR. The "presidential" and "parliamentary" elections should be held there on March 31, and no one is going to cancel them, since no cases of coronavirus infection in the unrecognized republic have been identified. The closed regime allows local authorities to assert that “NKR” is not in danger, and preventive measures are preventive in nature. The elections in the self-proclaimed NKR are Pashinyan’s second and no less important problem, since the loyalty of the top political elite towards the current Armenian government depends on their outcome. Consequently, the Armenian prime minister will prefer to resolve his political issues as they arrive, since “running after two birds with one stone” is extremely risky, especially since Pashinyan has already achieved his goals in the issue of the NKR elections. None of the current presidential candidates of the self-proclaimed republic criticizes the Armenian authorities and does not act as an opposition to Yerevan.
A constitutional referendum will be held in Armenia anyway. Legally or illegally, whether the state and society need it or not, all this will recede into the background, because the authorities declare the need for voting as a prerequisite for fulfilling their promises and solving the list of tasks for which they elected it. If successful, Pashinyan will allow himself a number of high-profile decisions, striving to fix the correctness of the decision made in the public representation in the short term after the referendum. After that, any talk about the opposition for a long time will not be relevant.