Court Reinstates Khachatrian As Parliament Speaker

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Noyan Tapan)–The speaker of the Armenian parliament–Armen Khachatrian–was on Tuesday reinstated in his post by the country’s highest court–which found unconstitutional his ouster late last month.

The Constitutional Court put an end to a legal dispute that left the legislature in disarray on September 26 when the majority of its parties moved to unseat Khachatrian.. The speaker and his People’s Party of Armenia have insisted that his resignation was not supported by sufficient number of deputies. But Khachatrian’s opponents led by the Republican Party of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian have accused him of illegally clinging to his post.

The Constitutional Court took the speaker’s side–ruling that the September 26 session of the parliament proceeded with serious procedural violations. It concluded that while Khachatrian’s offer to resign was formally accepted by the National Assembly the violations were so serious that the decision cannot have legal force.

The verdict reflected the opinion of President Robert Kocharian who brought the case to the court. Speaking at the three-hour hearings–Kocharian’s representative–Vrezh Gasparian–said the resignation issue was not even included on the parliament agenda before it was put to debate. Victor Dallakian–a senior Republican lawmaker who represented the National Assembly–agreed that "serious breaches of the parliament regulations took place."

The ruling did not come as surprise to the country’s main parties. It is unlikely to end weeks of political uncertainty over the future of the current governing coalition–which lacks a stable majority in the parliament. The parliament crisis is part of wider disagreemen’s between the People’s Party and the Republicans that are nominally part of the governing Unity bloc–the winner of last year’s parliamentary elections. The bloc has stood on the brink of collapse since August–with Markarian trying to form a new governing coalition. The court ruling puts the success of his efforts in doubt.

The Constitutional Court started the consideration of the constitutionality of the National Assembly’s decision on the speaker’s resignation Monday. President Robert Kocharian asked the court to consider the issue October 2–reported the Noyan Tapan news agency.

Gasparian pointed out that in making the decision–the National Assembly violated a number of provisions of the Law "On the Regulations of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia" as well as Article 62 of the Constitution under which the National Assembly is to work in accordance with its Regulations. According to the plaintiff–Parliament made the decision on the speaker’s resignation without including the issue on the agenda. Nor did Parliament determine the proportion of votes under which the decision would be considered. Gasparian stressed that the decision was made–whereas the Regulations do not stipulate it. A violation of the Regulations was also the secret ballot conducted on the initiative of the chairman.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for State and Legal Affairs Victor Dallakian–who was authorized by Vice-Speaker Gagik Aslanian as a respondent–said that in making the decision Parliament committed serious violations of the Regulations–and Speaker Armen Khachatrian–who was presiding over that meeting–bears the principal responsibility for those violations.

Constitutional Court Chairman Gagik Harutiunian drew the attention of those present to the fact that it was Vice-Speaker Aslanian who signed the aforementioned decision and authorized Dallakian as respondent. Dallakian pointed out that Aslanian may have signed the documen’s by the order of the Parliament speaker–but he–Dallakian–was not informed of that decision.

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