Parliament Calls for Referendum On Constitutional Court

Prime Minister Nikol Pashionyan addresses parliament on Constitutional Court standoff
Prime Minister Nikol Pashionyan addresses parliament on Constitutional Court standoff

Prime Minister Nikol Pashionyan addresses parliament on Constitutional Court standoff

YEREVAN (—Armenia’s parliament decided on Thursday to hold a referendum on constitutional changes that would dismiss seven of the nine members of the Constitutional Court locked in a bitter dispute with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government.

They would be replaced by other judges to be confirmed by the current 132-member National Assembly in which Pashinyan’s My Step bloc holds 88 seats.

The decision was unanimously backed by virtually all My Step deputies. Lawmakers representing the opposition Bright Armenia Party voted against it while their colleagues from the other parliamentary opposition party, Prosperous Armenia, did not vote at all.

My Step’s Vahagn Hovakimyan, who presented the draft amendments during the parliament debate, said that the Constitutional Court is Armenia’s least trusted state institution.

Addressing the National Assembly shortly before the vote, Pashinyan also strongly defended the amendments rejected as unconstitutional by opposition deputies. He again accused Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasyan and six other judges installed by former Armenian governments from 1995-2018 of being linked to the “corrupt former regime.”

“The Constitutional Court represents the corrupt regime of [former President] Serzh Sarkisian, rather than the people, and it must go,” he declared.

Pashinyan also claimed that Armenia’s highest court “limits the people’s power” and poses a “terrible and direct threat to democracy.” Its legal powers must therefore be superseded by “sovereign rights of the people,” he said.

Pashinyan went on to warn his political opponents against attempting to thwart the constitutional changes through legal or other mechanisms, saying that they would be declared “anti-state” elements in that case.

The warning prompted an angry response from Bright Armenia Party leader Edmon Marukyan, who accused Pashinyan of “blackmail.”

“Is it you who decides who are anti-state forces and who are patriots? Is this the ‘democracy’ you dream about?” Marukian asked him on the parliament floor.

Marukyan reaffirmed his party’s view that the draft amendments run counter to other articles of the Armenian constitution. He also noted that the current Constitutional Court consists of judges appointed under different governments. This is an important safeguard for the court’s independence, he said.

Another senior Bright Armenia Party figure, Taron Sahakyan, insisted that under Armenian law the amendments cannot be put on a referendum without being examined and endorsed by the Constitutional Court.

Parliament majority leaders gave no indications that they will submit the amendments to the court for approval before setting a referendum date. They cited articles of the constitution which make no reference to such a validation.

Pashinyan and his allies hinted that the decision to hold the referendum should be endorsed instead by President Armen Sarkissian. The prime minister said Sarkissian has already agreed in principle to the holding of the vote.

The president has made no public statements on the matter so far.

The Constitutional Court judges and Tovmasyan in particular have for months been under growing government pressure to resign. The parliament also passed in December a government bill offering them financial incentives to retire before the end of their mandate. None of them has accepted the early retirement scheme so far.

Later in December, prosecutors brought criminal charges against Tovmasyan. The Constitutional Court chairman rejected the accusations as politically motivated and again ruled out his resignation. He has said that the authorities want to get rid of him in order to gain control over the court.


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  1. ardachece barseghian said:

    But finally what could be more normal than these corrupt magistrates under the orders of dictators for many years to be fired if not condemned by the people who established a regime in the process of democracy. Yes, in my opinion, any political opponent who would like to rely on this constitution drafted by these dictators, mafia and cleptoman can be considered as nostalgic reactionaries of the old regime. Yes I consider these political leaders as enemies of the Republic, of the State, of the people. This prevents this new constitution from being submitted and given the preal approval of international institutions, but the people can be in a referendum.

  2. Zareh Sahakian said:

    Pashinyan’s government has has received an overwhelming mandate from the Armenian electorate and gained the right to clear and cleanse ALL remnants of the corrupt previous regime. Serj Sarkissian hand picked corrupt “judges” have found refuge in the Constitutional Court of Armenia who claim moral and legal superiority despite being Serj’s political prostitutes. All those organizations and political parties and individuals who are poo-pooing this act of purifying the system by the current government should remember that the people of Armenia stood up, by the millions, and rejected Serj Sarkissian and his government of criminal criminal gangs.

    Political parties who criticize Pashynian should face the Armenian nation and answer a simple question: Where were they and what were they doing when for twenty years Armenia was being robbed, pillaged and raped?

  3. Serop said:

    The Criminal Leeches that once led our nation and sucked it dry appointed these lawyer leeches into power, these left overs of the old corrupt regime must be rid of, they are an obstacle to a free & democratic Armenia. Many many times the children and henchmen of dictators killed anyone one that dared to speak up, and these vile shenerh supported them. Like shenereh they must be dealt with
    I can list a 50 killings alone in past 20 years of innocent and honest people who were shot, beaten to death and assassinated for simply standing up for their rights. These traitors have no place in Armenia along with the vile oligarchs and their second and 3rd tier leeches.

  4. GB said:

    All those Soviet-era judges and higher ranking ministers must resign peacefully or go do other beezzeensses. Pahinyan should open the door for a new young generation, who never seen Soviet-style deadly corruption!