YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenia set Dec. 6 as the date for its referendum on constitutional changes that supporters say will strengthen democracy in the ex-Soviet state, but opponents warn will only help keep ruling party leaders in power.
The changes, approved in parliament on Monday, would broadly curb the role of the historically-powerful president, and give more authority to the prime minister and parliament.
Supporters of President Serzh Sarksyan, who signed a decree on Thursday setting the date, have said the changes are needed to prevent political instability.
Sarksyan has regularly dismissed opposition accusations that the reforms are a ruse to let him slip into an enhanced prime ministerial role at the head of the ruling Republican Party after his presidential term ends in 2018.
The opposition kept up its criticism on Thursday.
"We should change not a constitution, but this leadership, which intends to reincarnate itself," Stepan Demirchyan, an MP from the opposition Armenian National Congress, said.
"The constitutional draft carries substantial risks that the country will slide into a de facto one-party system," added former president Robert Kocharyan on his 2rd.am website.
Under the changes, the president will no longer be elected by popular vote, but by parliament. The winner would stay in the job for seven years instead of the current five, but would only have largely ceremonial powers.
Mot of the role's current powers would pass to the prime minister and parliament.
(Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Andrew Heavens)