A constitutional referendum originally scheduled in Armenia for April 5 will be delayed after the country’s authorities declared a 30-day state of emergency over the novel coronavirus outbreak on Monday.
“Under Armenian legislation, a referendum cannot take place in conditions of a state of emergency. The referendum will take place no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days after the end of the state of emergency,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said in parliament today.
In the referendum Armenians are to be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment that would lead to the dismissal of seven of the Constitutional Court’s nine members installed before nationwide protests swept Pashinian to power in 2018.
The seven, including Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasian, would be replaced by judges to be confirmed by the National Assembly, in which Pashinian’s My Step alliance holds a majority.
Originally, campaigning in Armenia’s referendum began on February 17. Prime Minister Pashinian got actively engaged in street campaigning earlier this month. He took a vacation on March 10 to start a series of campaign rallies in provinces, but interrupted it and returned to work two days later after the number of coronavirus patients in Armenia had risen to six.
Parliamentary opposition parties then called for the suspension of the campaign. Edmon Marukian, the leader of the Bright Armenia party, also spoke in favor of the government introducing a state of emergency.
On Sunday, Pashinian took a coronavirus test after one of the persons he had a contact with on his campaign trip had tested positive. The Armenian prime minister reported last night that the test came back negative.
As of March 16, Armenia’s health authorities have confirmed 45 coronavirus cases in the country. One patient has recovered, and more than 300 people remain in quarantine. There have been no deaths from the disease caused by the virus in Armenia yet.