By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Constitutional Court on Monday rejected former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s demand to postpone Armenia’s presidential election by two weeks because of state television’s perceived biased coverage of his election campaign.
Under the Armenian Electoral Code, a presidential election can be put off if one of the candidates is deemed to be facing “insurmountable obstacles” during the campaign. If those obstacles are not eliminated by authorities within two weeks, the vote must be cancelled and held anew 40 days later.
In its appeal to the country’s highest judicial body, the Ter-Petrosian campaign claimed that the election coverage by the state-controlled Armenian Public Television, which has been highly critical of the ex-president, constitutes such an obstacle. Ter-Petrosian’s representatives spent more than an hour trying to substantiate the claim before the panel of nine judges headed by Gagik Harutiunian.
In particular, they cited examples of what they consider violations of legal provisions obligating Public Television to be impartial in its news coverage. One of them, Artak Zeynalian, said the Ter-Petrosian complained to the regulatory National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) but never received a reply.
In its verdict read out by Harutiunian, the Constitutional Court ruled that the alleged obstacles are not serious enough to be considered insurmountable. At the same time the court said after four-hour deliberations that Ter-Petrosian’s complaints are “legitimate” and should be addressed by the NCTR, the Central Election Commission and lower-level courts. It warned that their failure to do so could “generate distrust in the election process.”