Members of the Constitutional Court on Monday rejected lawmakers’ calls for the dismissal of its chairman, Hrayr Tovmasian, who is increasingly at loggerheads with Armenia’s political leadership.
The Armenian parliament appealed to the court on October 4 with a resolution drafted by its pro-government majority and endorsed by Justice Minister Rustam Badasian.
It denounced, among other things, Tovmasian’s handling of appeals against the legality of coup charges brought against the arrested former President Robert Kocharian. The resolution also said that Tovmasian cannot make impartial decisions on this case because of his past membership in the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Tovmasian would have been replaced if at least six of the Constitutional Court’s nine judges had voted against him.
In the event, the high court refused to even hold detailed discussions and vote on Tovmasian’s future. It did not immediately explain the rebuff or reveal how many judges backed it.
The decision was announced several hours after the court met to discuss the issue. One of the judges, Alvina Gyulumian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Tovmasian is not taking part in the meeting because of being on vacation.
Tovmasian, who was installed as court chairman by Armenia’s previous leadership overthrown in the 2018 “Velvet Revolution,” strongly denies violations of the due process, political bias and conflict of interest alleged by the parliamentary resolution.
Tovmasian claimed on October 2 that the Armenian authorities are seeking to oust him in order to gain control over the country’s highest court and be able to make unconstitutional decisions. He said he will not bow to the pressure despite the recent arrests of two individuals linked to him.
Senior lawmakers from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance condemned Tovmasian’s statements when the National Assembly debated the resolution two days later.
In a September 4 ruling read out by Tovmasian, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional a legal provision used by investigators against Kocharian. Pashinian called the ruling “illegal,” citing dissenting opinions voiced by two court judges.
In July, Pashinian charged that Tovmasian had cut political deals with former President Serzh Sarkisian to “privatize” the court. Tovmasian responded by warning the government against trying to force him and his colleagues to resign.