The National Assembly approved on Tuesday President Serzh Sarkisian’s pick for Armenia’s new prosecutor-general amid surprisingly little resistance from its opposition minority.
Gevorg Kostanian, until now the country’s chief military prosecutor, will replace Aghvan Hovsepian, who resigned last month after more than a decade in office. Kostanian, 35, had previously served as deputy minister of justice and a legal assistant to Sarkisian.
With the governing Republican and Orinats Yerkir parties controlling 75 of the 131 parliament seats, the parliamentary approval of Kostanian’s candidacy was never in doubt. It was backed by 103 deputies voting in secret ballot.
Only three lawmakers voted against Kostanian, despite the fact the latter was strongly criticized by representatives of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun (Heritage) parties during parliament debates. The HAK and Zharangutyun nominally hold 12 seats between them.
Writing on Facebook, Nikol Pashinian, who is nominally a member of the HAK’s parliament faction but has severed all links with the opposition party, called this fact a “political puzzle.” Pashinian also posted a photograph of his marked ballot to prove that he was one of the three deputies who voted against Kostanian.
Alexander Arzumanian, another independent opposition deputy formally affiliated with the Zharangutyun faction, also insisted that he rejected Sarkisian’s choice of the new prosecutor-general.
Human rights groups have criticized Kostanian over what they see as deeply flawed criminal investigations into chronic non-combat deaths of Armenian soldiers. Kostanian has also been under fire in recent months because of his handling of an investigation into a deadly shootout that occurred on June 1 outside the villa of Suren Khachatrian, a controversial provincial governor. One of Khachatrian’s sons and a bodyguard were arrested later in June for shooting and killing a businessman.
They both were freed and cleared of any wrongdoing last month. Military investigators overseen by Kostanian said that the gunshots fired by them constituted legitimate self-defense, a claim strongly disputed by the victim’s family.