Prominent Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hayrikian, who currently heads an Armenian political group, has gone on a hunger strike over what he says is the “unconstitutional” behavior of the country's Central Election Commission.
Hayrikian, the chairman of the Union for National Self-Determination and a former presidential candidate, claims the commission acted against the constitution by refusing to provide him with documents necessary for the start of a signature collection campaign for constitutional reform.
Hayrikian, who spent about 18 years in Soviet prisons and was shot and wounded during his bid for the presidency in 2013, has for years sought changes in Armenia’s constitution that he says will enable the country to switch to an “absolute democracy,” under which “no vote of a citizen will be lost because of a faulty electoral system.”
Article 202 of Armenia’s new constitution, adopted in a 2015 referendum, entitles at least 200,000 citizens who are eligible voters to initiate the adoption of amendments to the constitution.
“We received a strange reply, which shows that they either do not recognize the 2015 constitutional referendum and therefore do not accept the new constitution or challenge the legality of the new constitution,” Hayrikian said.
Not all of the chapters and articles of the amended constitution have been enforced yet. The article in question, according to transitional provisions, is due to take legal force when the newly elected president of Armenia assumes office next spring.
Still, Hayrikian insists on his right to start the collection of signatures in anticipation of the provision taking effect.
Election Commission Chairman Tigran Mukuchian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service over the weekend that the commission did not provide Hayrikian with the documents necessary for the collection of signatures because the current law on referendums does not provide for such a procedure.
This is not the first time Hayrikian has gone on hunger strike to press political demands. The last time he resorted to this form of protest was in 2014 after Armenia’s decision to join a Russian-led trade bloc.
At that time, Hayrikian went on a weeklong hunger strike demanding President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation and the transition of power to pro-European forces.
He is carrying out his current hunger strike in front of the Election Commission's building in Yerevan.