By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The National Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed on Thursday President Robert Kocharian’s decision to reappoint Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian for a new, six-year term.
The assembly backed the appointment, announced on Monday, by 118 votes to 3 at the end of two-day debates that saw Hovsepian grilled by lawmakers about continuing high-profile killings, prosecution of prominent government critics and his agency’s perceived failure to investigate electoral fraud.
The Armenian parliament until now had no say in the selection and appointment of the country’s chief prosecutors. The 2005 reform of the Armenian constitution gave the authority to confirm or block their appointment by the president of the republic. Also, the latter can not fire the prosecutor-general without the parliament’s consent.
Hovsepian declared after the vote that the new constitutional procedure will make him “more independent” of the executive branch of government. “The very fact that I am now standing before you and that you are appointing the prosecutor-general testifies to the independence of the entire prosecuting system,” he told the legislature on Wednesday.
Hovsepian’s confirmation was already a forgone conclusion on Monday when Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), which controls the majority of parliament seats, spoke out in his favor. The HHK’s two junior partners in the governing coalition, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), followed suit later in the week.
Dashnaktsutyun did so despite voicing serious concern at law-enforcement authorities’ failure to solve many of the high-profile killings committed in Armenian in recent years. Hovsepian assured parliamentarians on Wednesday that those killings are being seriously investigated by his agency and that the country’s overall crime rate has actually declined this year.
Hrayr Karapetian, a senior Dashnaktsutyun lawmaker, stated before Thursday’s secret ballot that Hovsepian can count on his party’s backing during his next term.
Hovsepian, who has extensive business interests and political ambitions, also appeared to have been backed by most deputies from the two opposition parties represented in the parliament. Leaders of the Orinats Yerkir and Zharangutyun parties, which hold 15 parliament seats, failed to formulate a position on his candidacy, saying that their deputies are free to back or oppose it. Only three of them chose to vote against.
Hovsepian was first appointed as prosecutor-general in 1998 but was forced to step down in the wake of the October 1999 terrorist attack on the Armenian parliament. Kocharian reinstated him as the country’s chief prosecutor in 2004.