A Crisis is Brewing in Armenia

A person voting during Dec. 9 2018 election
A person voting during Dec. 9 2018 election

A person voting during Dec. 9 2018 election

BY VICKEN SOSIKIAN

As we speak a potentially catastrophic crisis is brewing in Armenia. In 2018, the world revered the democratic leap Armenians made through the people’s movement that ousted the old regime. The world applauded the free and fair elections that replaced the old legislative (National Assembly) and executive (government) branches with the current. Those elections resulted in a government controlled by Nikol Pashinyan and a National Assembly fully controlled by his party.

While pleased with a free and fair electoral process, many political analysts raised concerns about the two branches being controlled by one party. In that the spirit of the people’s movement was not to replace the old regime with a new one, but to eliminate the existence of omni-powerful regimes all together.

The Crisis
The government and National Assembly have called for a referendum to amend a single article (213) in the Armenian Constitution, essentially enabling them to replace the majority of sitting Constitutional Court justices with those they will appoint.

There are 2 critical problems here.
1. The referendum has been called without following due processes outlined in the Constitution (articles 168, 169). The Constitutional Law Regarding Referendums (Article 8, Part 2) as well as the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly (Article 86) have also been violated. The process and the referendum is totally illegal.
2. In a country where one man’s party already controls the legislative and executive branches, the outright attempt to take control of the judicial branch counters the most basic democratic ideals including the need for balance of power. In fact, it violates Article 4 of the Armenian Constitution, which requires a balance of power between the three branches.

This is a crisis and its manifestation will be on the ballot April 5th.

An estimated 648,000 “yes” votes are needed for the constitutional amendment to take place.

With virtually every political group in the country urging citizens to boycott the illegal referendum, the Pashinyan camp is left alone with support from disgraced former president Levon Ter Petrosian.

Pashinyan will be the face of the “yes” campaign. Given the uphill battle he faces, he is expected to double down on his divisive rhetoric to secure the needed votes.

He has already announced that those who are against the referendum are against the state. He has already framed the referendum far from its real purpose by calling it the people’s vote in support of the 2018 revolution.

The Potential Catastrophe
Should Pashinyan secure the needed “yes” votes, he will control the appointment of the constitutional court judges. These judges are responsible for ensuring that laws passed by the National Assembly don’t violate the constitution. These judges must also review and approve the constitutionality of all treaties.

What could lie ahead? A Déjà vu of the Armenia-Turkey protocols? Artsakh concessions? Shifts in foreign policy?

What Now?
The dangers in total consolidation of power and the precedent set by circumventing the constitution is clear and present.

The people’s movement of 2018 changed a lot in Armenia, but it certainly did not do away with the most basic of democratic ideals, nor the rule of law.

Every Armenian must understand the severity of what lies ahead and do their part in ensuring democracy prevails.

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7 Comments

  1. ardachece barseghian said:

    Mr. Pachinyan consulted international diplomacy, notably Europe during his meeting with Aliyev. Has there been any one diplomat who has raised the slightest fear? Foreign institutions have fully understood the need to sweep away all this support for former leaders who are thieves and murderers. It is fortunate that we have avoided the constitutional rules written by these thugs. Ah, as I am marked by the period ter petrossian and Pachinyan made his political weapons in the context of the third republic, post-Soviet. He learns and wants to learn, he learns. The massacre not because it is not Tachnag !!!

  2. Ruben Malayan said:

    You failed to mention that these judges were appointed by criminal oligarchy that brought our country to its knees for almost 30 years. These are people who legitimized rigged elections and provided political cover to bandits and criminals. We will get rid of them one way or another. And yes, we will vote yes, without a doubt.

    • Aram Agajanian said:

      The bandits and criminals are Niko and his miscreant minions. It’s been two years since the so-called revolution and there has been little evidence against the previous government. Meanwhile, Niko corruptly uses the levers of power to persecute his political opponents.

  3. HAGOP said:

    WILL ARMENIA EVER HAVE NO CRISIS????????? ALWAYS PROBLEMS!!!! ALWAYS PROBLEMS!!!!!!! USE BRAINS! WORK TOGETHER!!!! MAKE COUNTRY STRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARMENIA CAN NOT GOVERN ITSELF!!!!!!!!! SAD SAD SAD!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. David Karamian said:

    What options does he have? If the judicial system is corrupt like the former presidents and the supporting oligarchy, he can’t can’t get anything done!
    The system needs a complete overhaul before it can accelerate progress.

  5. ardachece barseghian said:

    A shame of the President of the Constitutional Council who prefers to engage the Nation in the important financial expenditure rather than to demission and create a political crisis in a situation of conflict and our Party throws oil on the fire. Beautiful demonstration of irresponsibility of some, whose tradition is to defend class interests, and others that hope in vain to recover political dividends, to no avail by very bad calculation. But the interesting side is that the people will decide clauses of SA constitution which is an exemplary democratic act and in this case no matter the expense in the interest of the Nation

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