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Armenian President Sets Date Of Constitutional Referendum

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.

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

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.

Opposition activists say the reforms are a ruse to let Sarkisian slip into an enhanced prime ministerial role at the head of the ruling Republican Party after his presidential term ends in 2018.

"We should change not a constitution, but this leadership, which intends to reincarnate itself," said Stepan Demirchyan, a lawmaker from the opposition Armenian National Congress.

"The constitutional draft carries substantial risks that the country will slide into a de facto one-party system," said former President Robert Kocharian on his website.

With reporting by AFP

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