A senior member of businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance said on Friday that it is unlikely to join another opposition group in challenging the legality of the upcoming election of Armenia’s new president.
The head of state will be chosen by the parliament, rather than popular vote, next week in accordance with the country’s amended constitution envisaging a parliamentary system of government.
Some Armenian lawyers critical of the government say that the new constitutional provisions on the parliament vote are supposed to take effect only after the outgoing President Serzh Sarkisian’s final term ends on April 9. Sarkisian’s successor must therefore be directly elected by voters, they say.
But government officials and legal experts cite other constitutional clauses. One of them stipulates that only Armenia’s parliament and local government bodies shall be elected by popular vote. Another clause says that lawmakers can pick the next president no sooner than 40 days before the end of Sarkisian’s decade-long presidency.
Some opposition groups added their voice to the critics’ claims that the upcoming parliament vote is unconstitutional. One of them, the Yelk alliance, moved on Thursday to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on the dispute.
Yelk, which controls nine parliament seats, needs the signatures of at least 21 lawmakers in order to lodge an appeal to the court. It has asked deputies from the Tsarukian Bloc, which has 31 seats, to join in the legal action.
Gevorg Petrosian, a senior Tsarukian Bloc lawmaker, echoed the government arguments, saying that the constitution does allow the National Assembly to elect the president as early as next week. “You can’t literally interpret one constitutional norm while ignoring the essence of the whole constitution,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Petrosian, who is a lawyer by training, predicted that the Tsarukian Bloc will turn down Yelk’s request. “I will voice my opinion at [a meeting of] our parliamentary faction and I think that the faction’s position will not differ from mine,” he said.
Petrosian insisted that Yelk would stand no chance of winning the court case. It therefore makes no sense to appeal to the country’s highest court, he said.
Gevorg Gorgisian, a parliament deputy from Yelk, disagreed. “Even if the Tsarukian Bloc is sure that there is nothing to be disputed, there is an issue,” he said. “The Constitutional Court should express its position and clarify how those contentious constitutional provisions should be interpreted.”