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Armenian Protesters Challenge Proposed Constitutional Changes

A billboard in Yerevan urges Armenians to vote for controversial constitutional amendments.

YEREVAN -- Some 2,000 protesters have rallied in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, against constitutional reforms proposed by the government.

The protesters say government leaders are trying to secure their authority and control over the country by instituting the changes, which would shift power from the president to the prime minister.

The protest was organized by the opposition Armenian National Congress and Heritage parties.

On October 5, Armenia's parliament voted to hold a referendum to change the constitution in order to establish a parliamentary republic.

Along with transferring presidential powers to the parliament, the president would no longer be elected in a direct vote by the people but by parliament.

The presidential term would also be extended from five to seven years.

President Serzh Sarkisian, whose second term in office ends in 2018, is supposed to set the date for the referendum this year.