Edmon Marukian, an opposition lawmaker and leader of the Bright Armenia party, believes the only way to comply with last week’s Constitutional Court ruling concerning the stymie in the work of Vanadzor’s municipal council is to hold new elections in the city.
Armenia’s highest court on Friday declared unconstitutional a legal provision that has enabled pro-government forces to overcome a yearlong boycott of the council by its majority representing three opposition parties.
The council elected in October 2016 Mamikon Aslanian of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) mayor of the country’s third largest city despite the fact that the HHK and its ally, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, control only 15 of its 33 seats. The 18 other seats were won by the opposition Bright Armenia, Prosperous Armenia and Armenian Revival parties.
Aslanian received 19 council votes cast in secret ballot, meaning that four opposition councilors secretly broke the ranks. It is still not clear who they are. Opposition leaders believe that they were forced to vote for the HHK candidate.
Since that ballot all 18 opposition councilors have been boycotting sessions of the Vanadzor legislature. But despite the lack of quorum, the 15 other, pro-government councilors have held sessions of the council and adopted decisions on its behalf since March. The Vanadzor municipality has insisted that those decisions are valid, citing an article of Armenia’s Law on Local Self-Government.
In backing the opposition claim that the article in question contradicts the Constitution, the Constitutional Court still ruled that the legal provision will remain in force until March 31, 2018.
Marukian and other opposition lawmakers believe that if the pro-government minority in the municipal council continues to hold its sessions until then, these sessions will be illegitimate, too.
Furthermore, the Bright Armenia party’s leader is convinced that even Aslanian’s stepping down as mayor and the holding of a new election of the mayor by the councilors will not amount to complying with the Court’s ruling.
“The Court’s ruling means that the municipal council has not functioned for a year and, therefore, under law it must be dissolved. If it is not done, then it won’t amount to complying with the Court’s decision,” Marukian explained.
“Now it’s up to the government to comply with the Court ruling. We, as the opposition, have done our part. We have turned to the Constitutional Court and it has ruled it unconstitutional. There is a Constitutional Court ruling that must be complied with.”
Marukian said that Bright Armenia was ready for a new local election in Vanadzor and felt determined to try to come to power in this community whether it participates together with the other two parties or not.
After the 2016 local elections the Marukian-led party formed a bloc with the Civil Contract and Hanrapetutyun parties of Nikol Pashinian and Aram Sargsian ahead of last April’s general elections in which the three-party opposition alliance managed to win seats in parliament and become a parliamentary minority. Prosperous Armenia and Armenian Revival participated in the parliamentary elections separately.