As President Armen Sarkissian on Wednesday sent the case of the dismissal of the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Onik Gasparyan for review by the Constitutional Court, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that he was forcibly removing the military leader from his position.
Pashinyan said that a deadline had passed for Sarkissian to submit the matter for review by the nation’s high court, he was exercising his right to an executive order and removing Gasparyan from office, thus deepening a divide between the country’s two leaders.
Sarkissian had refused to sign two decrees from Pashinyan about firing Gasparyan, signaling late Tuesday night that he would appeal to the Constitutional Court for legal clarity on the law government the employment of Armed Forces. The president also asserted that there were no deadlines stipulated in the Constitution for such an appeal.
On February 25, Gasparyan called for Pashinyan’s resignation, a move backed by the country’s top military brass, prompting the prime minister to fire him, which requires the approval of the president. President Sarkissian, on February 27, refused to sign the dismissal decree, saying that it was not a regular personnel change. The following day, Pashinyan submitted a second request for Gasparyan’s removal, which again was refused by Sarkissian, who signaled at the time that he would seek the high court’s interpretation of the law.
Gasparyan’s announcement was hailed by the opposition Homeland Salvation Movement, which has been calling for Pashinyan’s resignation and for more than 10 days has blocked Baghramyan Avenue, where the country’s parliament, Constitutional Court and prime minister’s office are located. On Tuesday, the movement’s participants also closed off the other entrance to National Assembly on Demirchyan Street completely encircling the parliament compound and virtually blockading it.
Pashinyan, on the other, told a rally of his supporters on February 25 that Gasparyan’s calls for his resignation amounted to a coup d’etat.
“Through the submitted appeal, the decisions and steps by the Constitutional Court can have a serious impact on decision made thus far, as well as on the current and future approached to the situation,” said a statement by the president’s office released Wednesday moments after Pashinyan announced his executive order after claiming that the president had not submitted the matter for review by the high court.
Sarkissian’s office said that the president expressed hope that a quick decision on the matter will bring legal clarity and “will benefit the resolution of the current crisis.”