President Armen Sarkissian over the weekend signed a decree scheduling a referendum for April 5 to address the issue of Armenia’s Constitutional court judges, effectively validating a controversial decision approved by parliament late last week, which left the fate of Constitutional Court judges in the hands of the voting public.
The referendum decision, introduced by the majority My Step party, handily passed parliament on Thursday when the ruling party opted to pull from the agenda a version of the bill that would give parliament the green light to oust members of Armenia’s high court. Instead, the My Step parliamentary faction introduced a measure that would bring their and the government’s grievance with the high court judges to a referendum.
The Constitutional Court standoff has been criticized by opposition forces within and outside parliament, challenging the legality of the amendments proposed by the My Step bloc.
Under the proposed amendments, the court’s chairman, Hrayr Tovmasyan, and six other members installed by former Armenian governments would be replaced by other judges to be confirmed by the current parliament controlled by My Step.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who welcomed Sarkissian’s decree, and his My Step party have expressed skepticism over the impartiality of the Constitutional Court judges, saying that they were appointed by the previous regime, which are deemed corrupt. In particular, they call Tovmasyan’s appointment, which occurred before the spring 2018 popular uprising, illegal, saying that the parliament speaker at the time colluded with former president Serzh Sarkisian to appoint Tovmasyan as Armenia’s chief justice.
”We will say ‘yes’ to the revolution, to freedom and to bright future on April 5, and will slam the door in the face of corruption,” Pashinyan wrote in a post on Facebook after the president’s announcement of the referendum date. he wrote.
President Sarkissian’s press service said that the president’s powers are limited only to scheduling the day of the referendum.