Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian joined on Tuesday other opposition figures in defending the legitimacy of the Constitutional Court challenged by its newest judge and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s political allies.
Immediately after being elected by the parliament and sworn late last month, the judge, Vahe Grigorian, claimed that only he and another judge of the 9-member court, Arman Dilanian, can make valid decisions.
Grigorian argued that under constitutional amendments which took effect last year the Constitutional Court now consists of “judges,” rather than “members,” as was the case until April 2018. He said that the seven other members of the court therefore cannot be considered “judges.”
The eight other members of the Constitutional Courts, including Dilanian, dismissed the claims in a joint statement, saying that they “cannot have any legal consequences.”
Senior lawmakers from the BHK and the other opposition party represented in the parliament, Bright Armenia, also disagreed with Grigorian. The BHK’s Gevorg Petrosian said an article of the amended constitution makes clear that the court members appointed before 2018 can serve as judges until they turn 65.
Tsarukian also denied the existence of a constitutional crisis in the country. “I don’t see anything [wrong,]” he told journalists. “People can’t just wake up and express a thought or draw a conclusion so that things move in that direction.”
Grigorian elaborated on his claims in a lengthy letter to Armenia’s government, parliament and top judicial officials publicized on June 28. He urged them to help resolve the “crisis” and proposed three different solutions, including the election of seven new Constitutional Court judges by the National Assembly. None of those state institutions has officially replied to Grigorian’s letter so far.
Some parliament deputies from the ruling My Step alliance have publicly sided with the judge in the dispute. Still, My Step’s parliamentary leader, Lilit Makunts, said on Tuesday that the parliament’s pro-government majority has not yet formulated an official position on the issue.
“Our parliamentary faction does not have a decision at the moment as to what roadmap we will be following,” Makunts told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “We have certainly familiarized ourselves with the letter but are in no rush to come up with any solutions or proposals.”
“I don’t exclude that we will accept Vahe Grigorian’s proposal,” she said. “Nor do I exclude that we will propose our own solutions.”