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Armenian Parliament Again Rejects Constitutional Court Nominee


Armenia -- A session of the National Assembly in Yerevan, May 29, 2019.

The National Assembly on Wednesday again refused to appoint a new member of Armenia’s Constitutional Court nominated by President Armen Sarkissian.

Sarkissian picked Artur Vagharshian, a senior law professor at Yerevan State University (YSU), from among nine applicants for the vacant position.

Vagharshian needed the backing of at least 79 members of the 132-seat parliament controlled by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance. Only 30 deputies backed him in secret ballot, with 53 others voting against his candidacy.

The parliament rejected on April 16 another presidential nominee, Gor Hovannisian, by an even wider margin. Parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan cited “discrepancies” in documents submitted by Hovannisian.

Deputies representing My Step likewise signaled their misgivings about Vagharshian’s appointment to the country’s highest court during a question-and-answer session that preceded Wednesday’s parliament vote.

Armenia - Artur Vagharshian speaks in the National Assembly, Yerevan, May 29, 2019.
Armenia - Artur Vagharshian speaks in the National Assembly, Yerevan, May 29, 2019.

One of them, Vahagn Hovakimian, said that YSU’s Law Department is widely perceived to be corrupt. Hovakimian also asked Vagharshian to explain his failure to back in February government efforts to oust the YSU rector, Aram Simonian. The latter resigned last week after months of strong pressure from the government.

Vagharshian defended his stance. He also said that he has never been involved in “political intrigues” and believes that the Armenian judiciary needs individuals with an “impartial civic past.”

Sarkissian’s two other Constitutional Court picks were rejected by the former Armenian parliament last fall. One of those nominees, Vahe Grigorian, reportedly enjoys the backing of Pashinian and political allies. Grigorian again applied for the Constitutional Court job but was not nominated by the president in April and this time around.

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