Earlier today it became known that an administrative court in Yerevan had accepted Gasparian’s lawsuit and granted his request to be considered chief of the General Staff before the case is heard in court.
The prime minister’s office, however, reminded that Gasparian was relieved of his duties “on the basis of a March 10 presidential decree that came into force by virtue of law.”
“The constitution does not provide for the possibility of revising an act that entered into force by virtue of this constitutional norm. Consequently, Onik Gasparian was dismissed from the post of Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia, and the process of appointing a new Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces will continue according to the procedure established by part 2 of Article 139 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia,” the office’s explanation reads.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian moved to dismiss Gasparian shortly after the general and four dozen other high-ranking officers demanded that he and his cabinet step down in a joint statement issued on February 25.
They accused the government of putting Armenia “on the brink of collapse” after last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinian rejected the demand as a coup attempt and petitioned President Armen Sarkissian to sign a decree relieving Gasparian of his duties.
Sarkissian refused to sign such a decree on February 27, saying that it appeared to be unconstitutional and would deepen the “unprecedented” political crisis in the country. Pashinian criticized the refusal as “unfounded” and resent his motion to Sarkissian in another attempt to get him to fire Gasparian.
Sarkissian again refused to sign the decree drafted by the prime minister’s office. But he made it clear that he would not ask the Constitutional Court to invalidate it, effectively paving the way for Gasparian’s removal.
Under Armenian law, the president can keep blocking the prime minister’s decisions only by appealing to the court.
The entire process took place amid continuing street protests organized by a coalition of more than a dozen opposition parties called the Homeland Salvation Movement demanding Pashinian’s resignation over the defeat suffered by Armenian forces in last year’s war against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Thousands of opposition supporters blockading a central boulevard in Yerevan voiced their solidarity with the military top brass and support for the generals’ call for Pashinian’s resignation.
Later, Pashinian named Artak Davtian as a new candidate for the post of the chief of the Armed Forces’ General Staff. Davtian already occupied the post in 2018-2020.
Sarkissian initially also challenged Pashinian’s new pick for the army chief, but eventually indicated that he would not take the prime minister’s draft decree to the Constitutional Court either. Thus, Davtian’s appointment is due to take effect soon.
Gasparian’s lawyer Artur Hovannisian insisted today, however, that his client is still considered to be in his official capacity after the court’s decision.
“If this decision is not implemented now and someone else is appointed instead of Gasparian, then his right will be violated,” he said.
Leader of the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement Vazgen Manukian issued a statement later today describing the explanation provided by the prime minister’s office as “a direct call not to obey a court’s act, which is a criminal deed.”
“With this step, Pashinian and his administration once again put themselves outside the constitution and laws, delivering another blow to the constitutional order of the country,” Manukian stressed.