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Opposition Party ‘Undecided’ Over Court Challenge Against Constitutional Changes


Armenia -- Bright Armenia Party leader Edmon Marukian at a parliament session in Yerevan, June 4, 2020.

The Bright Armenia Party (LHK) seemed reluctant on Tuesday to join the other parliamentary opposition group in trying to scuttle the ruling political team’s efforts to replace three of the nine members of the country’s Constitutional Court.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc pushed relevant constitutional changes through the National Assembly during an emergency session held on Monday. All opposition lawmakers representing the LHK and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) boycotted the session in protest against the amendments.

The BHK condemned the amendments as unconstitutional. It said the parliamentary majority’s refusal to send them to the Constitutional Court for examination before passing them in the final reading also violated the Armenian constitution.

The party led by embattled businessman Gagik Tsarukian went on to announce that it will try to challenge the legality of the amendments in the Constitutional Court.

Under Armenian law, appeals to the court have to be signed by at least 27 members of the 132-seat parliament. The BHK controls only 25 seats, meaning that it needs the LHK’s backing for such a move. Consequently, the BHK asked LHK parliamentarians to join the court challenge.

Armenia -- Prosperous Armenia Party's Naira Zohrabian speaks to journalists, June 19, 2020.
Armenia -- Prosperous Armenia Party's Naira Zohrabian speaks to journalists, June 19, 2020.

A senior BHK figure, Naira Zohrabian, said on Tuesday that her party is now awaiting the LHK’s response. “They are having internal discussions and will respond to us in due course and in an appropriate manner,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

LHK leader Edmon Marukian said afterwards that his party is still discussing the matter and will hold another leadership meeting late in the evening. He said it will announce its final decision on Wednesday.

Marukian and another senior LHK member suggested on Monday that Armenian laws do not allow parliamentarians to ask the Constitutional Court to assess the legality of constitutional changes. Marukian said such an appeal should be filed instead by President Armen Sarkissian.

Zohrabian insisted in this regard that “very serious” legal experts believe the parliamentary opposition can appeal to the Constitutional Court.

“We believe that what happened in the parliament yesterday was an attempted constitutional coup,” said Zohrabian. “We believe that the country has entered a very bad period … a period of repressions and legal anarchy.”

Armenia -- The main meeting room of the Constitutional Court, Yerevan, September 3, 2019.
Armenia -- The main meeting room of the Constitutional Court, Yerevan, September 3, 2019.

Other opposition groups, which are not represented in the current parliament, also urged the LHK to join the BHK initiative. One of them, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s administration of violating the constitution in a bid to gain control over Armenia’s highest court.

Pashinian and his bloc have been locked in a bitter standoff with the Constitution Court for the past year. They have accused the court’s chairman, Hrayr Tovmasian, and six other judges of being linked to the country’s “corrupt” former leadership.

Pashinian hailed the passage of the constitutional changes late on Monday. He said he is “proud of our political team” which controls at least 88 parliament seats.

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