Are There Obstacles to A Kocharian Presidency?

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–In his latest statemen’s–Acting President of Armenia–Prime Minister Robert Kocharian did not deny the possibility of his participation in the forthcoming presidential race. However–he admitted that he is not a citizen of the Republic of Armenia and that the laws do not support a nomination of his candidacy.

Article 50 of the Constitution states that "Each person of 35 years–who has been citizen of Armenia for the last 10 years–and has had continuous residency in the Republic for 10 years can be elected President of Armenia." Judicial confusion typical of transitional periods–as well as a series of precedents set during previous election campaigns–may produce sufficient legal grounds for the nomination and registration of Robert Kocharian for presidential elections.

There have been many legal contradictions produced by documen’s adopted at different times by the Parliament and Central Electoral Commission.

The foundation of the "Republic of Armenia" is not specifically dated. The possibilities include August 23–1990–when the Declaration of Independence was adopted; September 23–1991–when the referendum on secession from USSR was established; September 23–1991–when independence was declared; December 1991–when Armenia was first internationally recognized; March 1992–when Armenia became a member of the United Nations; July 1995–when then new post-Communist Constitution came into force.

It is necessary to have a legal definition of when the "Republic of Armenia" term has come into existence. Such a definition is likely to be decided upon by the Constitutional Court of Armenia. However–any date chosen will show that the "Republic of Armenia" has been around for less than 10 years.

Technically–nobody has the right to run for presidency. Therefore–this section of Article 50 in the Constitution should not be taken into account during nomination and registration procedures.

The date of the initiation of citizenship in Armenia is not clear. As is known–there was no citizenship for republics during the Soviet era–although the Soviet Constitution read that "a citizen of a soviet republic is a citizen of the USSR." However–this did not impede Robert Kocharian’s election to Armenia’s Parliament in 1989 and 1990. At that time he was resident of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijani SSR. Some sources say Kocharian holds a Soviet-type passport–with a residential permit in Yerevan.

The term "citizen of the Republic of Armenia" was first shaped when the National Assembly adopted a law on Armenian citizenship. However–even today more than half of Armenia’s residents remain to be citizens of the USSR. Deep blue passports of the Republic of Armenia have been issued to over 1 million people so far. Thus–formally over half of country’s electors hold no document certifying their citizenship. Residential permits and registration–which lawyers so often refer to–are normative but not legal documen’s.

Besides–in June 1988 Supreme Council of the Armenian SSR adopted a resolution–wherein stated that Armenia agrees to reunify with the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Republic. That resolution has not been canceled thus far.

Yet the most convincing argument that supporters of "reunification" put forth is a document on reunification of the Armenian people adopted on December 1–1989 at a joint session of the National Council of Artsakh (Karabakh) and Supreme Council of the Armenian SSR. This document provided legal opportunities to hold elections to the Armenian Supreme Council on Karabakh territory (May 20 1990). During 1995 elections to the National Assembly–Armenia partly confirmed the legitimacy of this document–setting up a precinct–where the majority of voters lived in the Lachin corridor area. Thus–the Central Electoral Committee of Armenia has twice confirmed the legitimacy of the Dec. 1–1989 Act.

We have to note that under the Act adopted on December 1–1989–a referendum held in Karabakh on December 10–1991 was a secessionary step. Through that referendum Nagorno-Karabakh was declared an independent state.

Therefore–according to the mentioned documen’s the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Republic) has been part of Armenia’since 1988-1989.

The rule that a presidential candidate should have permanently lived in Armenia for the last 10 years has not always been enforced.

A resolution of CEC on the registration of Baruyr Hairikian (leader of the Self-Determination Union) as a presidential candidate was adopted in fall of 1991.

Baruyr Hairikian registered as a presidential candidate in 1991–although from 1988 to 1990 he was stripped of Soviet citizenship and exiled. The decision was taken by administrative bodies and was then not protested by the court. During exile–Hairikian lived in the United States. Thereafter–he was granted Soviet citizenship by a special decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of USSR. However–although he was not a citizen of either USSR or Armenian SSR–nothing prevented Hairikian from taking part in the presidential elections of 1991 and 1995.

Over the last 10 years there have been multiple legal precedents regarding presidential elections. This is mainly caused by the fact that law-makers do not provide clear judicial terms or give vague definitions for legal terms. This often results in confusion of legal procedures.

The aforementioned differences in legislation–as well as available precedents may create certain conditions for the registration of Robert Kocharian as a presidential candidate–if he is nominated.

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