Despite opposition from within and outside parliament, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s My Step legislative bloc on Wednesday introduced a measure that would effectively amend Armenia’s Constitution through which seven of the nine sitting justices of Armenia’s high court can be replaced.
After Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan convened a session of the legislative leadership council, it was announced that an extraordinary session of the entire parliament would be held on Thursday to debate the proposed bill.
The proposed bill would allow the National Assembly to propose amendments to Armenia’s Constitution, which was changed in 2015. The measure would effectively bypass the Constitutional Court and provide amendment powers to the legislature.
“Whereas newly elected judges serve for 12 years, the previously appointed members, who have been appointed under the 1995 Constitution (two members) will serve in office until 70 years of age, while judges appointed by the 2005 Constitution (5 members) until 65 years of age. In other words, in order to present the situation more descriptively, for example one Constitutional Court member can be in office in this judicial composition for 33 years (from 1996 to 2029), while a newly elected judge is limited to 12 years in office,” said the legislation introduced by the My Step bloc.
The ruling bloc explained that the crisis around the Constitutional Court has several aspects now which pose serious challenges for Armenia’s democracy, sovereignty and legal qualities.
“The purpose of the bill is to resolve the crisis of the lack of trust for the Constitutional Court by the society and the branches of the government and to form a Constitutional Court” envisioned by the Constitution, says the text of the bill.
“It is a reality that currently the Constitutional Court, with this composition of members, has the lowest approval rating among public governance bodies and the restoration of this approval is impossible in the event of preserving the same composition,” says the measure.
“This path chosen by the authorities carries a great danger for the rule of law in Armenia,” Edmon Marukian, the leader of the Bright Armenia Party, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “It could set a bad precedent for any future government to oust judges and handpick new ones in the same way.”
In an announcement issued Wednesday, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia warned that such a move will “lead to the end of the Republic’s very existence.”
“The representatives of the political majority of the National Assembly are circulating a draft measure, which aims to not only aims to usurp the powers of the Constitutional Court and the President, but also to topple the country’s constitutional order,” said the ARF Supreme Council of Armenia. The party argued that in engaging in this process, the ruling party is ignoring the warnings of the international community and will hinder Armenia’s status around the world.
The ARF Supreme Council of Armenia called on President Armen Sarkissian to halt “these illegal initiatives.”