The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) faced an unexpected obstacle to its entry into parliament on Wednesday as it emerged that most of its newly elected deputies are in legal limbo.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) said that they technically remain members of Yerevan’s municipal council and therefore cannot to join the National Assembly.
Under Armenian law, members of the 131-strong parliament are not allowed to hold any other positions in the executive branch and local government bodies.
The HAK refused to take up its 13 seats in Yerevan’s Council of Elders in protest against the alleged falsification of municipal elections held in May 2009. According to Armen Smbatian, the CEC secretary, neither the bloc nor any of its 13 candidates elected to the council formalized that decision with written notifications that had to be sent to the Mayor’s Office.
Four of those candidates also ran for the National Assembly in this month’s elections and won seats there along with three other members of the HAK. Smbatian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that they cannot receive their parliamentary mandates without resigning from the Yerevan council in a manner required by law.
Asked what the CEC will do if they refuse to comply with that requirement, Smbatian said, “We don’t even envisage a scenario whereby they will refuse to renounce their membership in the Yerevan Council of Elders.”
The HAK said it is now assessing its options and will announce a decision within days. One of its legal experts, Armen Khachatrian, said that the four elected deputies should have been officially removed from the council even without an official HAK application. He argued that a law on local self-government in the Armenian capital stipulates that members failing to attend most sessions of the council must be stripped of their seats.
“This is yet another example of inactivity by an illegitimate body,” Khachatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “It’s their problem.”
The new Armenian parliament, in which President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party has a clear majority, is due to hold its opening session on May 31.