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Armenian Opposition Urges Referendum Delay Due To Coronavirus

Edmon Marukian is the leader of the Bright Armenia opposition party. (file photo)

An Armenian opposition leader has called on the authorities to postpone a constitutional referendum scheduled for April 5 because of the risks posed by the spread of the new coronavirus infection in the country.

“The situation tends to get worse rather than better,” Edmon Marukian, the leader of the parliamentary Bright Armenia party, warned on March 13.

“The number of those infected is increasing, so it will be impossible to hold the ballot, and decisions in this regard must be made now.”

Marukian also said he was in favor of introducing a state of emergency for at least 14 days in order to shut down all public and private institutions and stop all mass events.

Armenia has reported 13 confirmed coronavirus infections.

Election authorities in Armenia have not yet spoken about any plans to postpone the current referendum.

Earlier on March 13, Armenia's government decided to close all schools, universities, and kindergartens until at least March 23.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has suspended campaigning for the referendum and called on citizens, especially those exhibiting coronavirus-like symptoms, to refrain from participating in mass events.

If approved, the constitutional amendments would lead to the dismissal of seven of the court’s nine members installed before nationwide protests swept Pashinian to power in 2018.

The seven would be replaced by judges to be confirmed by the National Assembly, in which Pashinian’s My Step bloc holds a majority.

Armenian Vice-Premier Tigran Avinian announced late on March 13 that, under a mutual agreement between Yerevan and Tbilisi, beginning early on March 14, Armenia and Georgia will suspend movements of the two countries’ citizens across the border for a period of 10 days.

Earlier this month Armenia also reintroduced a visa regime and tightened controls at the border with neighboring Iran over coronavirus-related risks.