By Karine Kalantarian
A court in Yerevan ordered on Thursday a new election of the leadership of Armenia’s newly unified bar association after finding serious procedural violations in the first vote held a month ago.
The Chamber of Advocates has been in turmoil ever since it was formally set up in place of two lawyers’ associations that existed until recently and numbered more than 400 members. Its creation was mandated by a new Armenian law on legal counseling that came into force in January.
Yenok Azarian, a young lawyer, was narrowly elected as the chamber’s chairman at its founding congress on March 20. His more experienced and famous rival, Ruben Sahakian, challenged the outcome of the vote, alleging serious procedural violations.
A district court of first instance in Yerevan annulled the vote results on the grounds that ballot paper used in the process was too thin and transparent and therefore violated the secrecy of the election. But it rejected Sahakian’s claims that that 9 of 181 attorneys that voted for Azarian had received their operating licenses illegally and must be barred from the chamber.
Still, the ruling means that the ballot will have to be rerun. It is not yet clear if Azarian and his supporters will appeal it.
Lawyers complain that the law in question which was passed by parliament last year is flawed and not specific enough. “The law should have clearly spelled out the election mechanism,” one of them, Vartan Zurnachian, said.