The National Assembly on Tuesday refused to appoint a new member of Armenia’s Constitutional Court nominated by President Armen Sarkissian.
Sarkissian picked Gor Hovannisian, a legal scholar based in Germany, from among three potential candidates for the vacant position in the country’s highest court.
Hovannisian needed the backing of at least 79 members of the 132-seat parliament. Only 24 deputies voted for him in secret ballot, with 75 others voting against his candidacy.
Hovannisian’s appointment appeared to have been blocked by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance which controls 88 parliament seats. Speaking before the vote, parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan cited “discrepancies” in documents submitted by him.
Another senior My Step lawmaker, Nikolay Baghdasarian, said the documents do not prove that the nominee possesses at least 15 years of professional experience required for being a Constitutional Court judge.
Hovannisian earlier held separate meetings with lawmakers from the three political groups represented in the parliament and answered their questions. He won unequivocal support only from the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK) holding 16 seats. LHK leader Edmon Marukian praised Hovannisian before the vote, saying that the candidate is not connected to Armenia’s current or former governments.
President Sarkissian’s two other Constitutional Court picks were rejected by the former parliament last fall. One of those nominees, Vahe Grigorian, reportedly enjoys the backing of Pashinian and political allies. Grigorian was one of the three candidates considered by Sarkissian this time around.
Grigorian has a long history of human rights advocacy. He has also cooperated with opposition groups that challenged former Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharian.
In particular, Grigorian represented Levon Ter-Petrosian and his Armenian National Congress party in Constitutional Court hearings on their appeals against official results of a 2008 presidential elections and parliamentary elections held in 2012 and 2017. The court refused to annul the election results.