BY VICKEN SOSIKIAN
On June 22 Nikol Pashinyan’s My Step Block, which has absolute control over the parliament in Armenia, passed a law that amends Article 213 of the Armenian Constitution. The amendment caps the years of service for Constitutional Court judges and forces the removal of those judges who have served more than 12 years.
This may not seem like such a terrible idea if it were not for the fact that the Pashinyan camp intentionally bypassed the required Constitutional Court’s review of the amendment.
Article 168 Part 1 states that the Constitutional Court determines the compliance of laws, decisions of the National Assembly, decrees and executive orders of the President of the Republic, decisions of the Government and the Prime Minister, and secondary regulatory legal acts with the Constitution.
This means that the Constitutional Court has a duty to review all laws and decisions prior to enforcement – something they have thus far been stripped of with regard to the Constitutional Amendment at hand.
Article 168 Part 2 states that prior to the adoption of draft amendments to the Constitution, as well as draft legal acts put to referendum, the Constitutional Court determines compliance with the Constitution.
This section further solidifies the need to ensure all amendments to the Constitution are reviewed by the Constitutional Court.
Article 86 Part 2 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly states that the Chairperson of the National Assembly shall, within two working days, send draft amendments to the Constitution to the Constitutional Court for review.
The president of the National Assembly, Ararat Mirzoyan, who is tasked with ensuring adherence to procedure, has violated this rule.
One must think that if the proposed Constitutional amendment did not bear severe red flags, such as the violation of Article 4 of the Constitution, which stipulates a balance of power among the state’s judicial, legislative and administrative bodies, then why would Pashinyan jump through hoops to circumvent a Constitutional Court review of the amendment?
The special session in which the Constitutional amendment was passed was boycotted by the two opposition parties in the parliament; so this packet of laws was passed exclusively by the Pashinyan camp.
Article 123 Part 2 of the Constitution tasks the President of the Republic with ensuring compliance with the Constitution. As such, many were hopeful that the president would fulfill this responsibility and send the amendment to the Constitutional Court for review – similar to two (far less significant) laws that he sent in for review just a few months ago.
However, in the middle of the night, the president signed off on a packet of laws that included the Pashinyan Constitutional amendment – without sending it in for Constitutional Court review.
A slightly different version of the very same amendment was slated for a referendum on April 5, but was postponed due to the state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The constitution also requires constitutional amendments be reviewed by the Constitutional Court prior to setting a referendum date. That article was also violated by the Pashinyan camp, but the concept of a referendum would have at least provided an opportunity for public discourse on the matter.
In stark contrast to the democratic values Pashinyan touts, Article 213 of the Constitution has now (as far as Pashinyan is concerned) been amended, with virtually no public discourse and in violation of the Constitution – resulting in full dominance of all three branches of power in the republic by one man.
The ARF in Armenia has, from the very beginning of Pashinyan’s quest to dominate the Constitutional Court, pushed for the process to be carried out within the legal and constitutional framework that is accepted by all parties and served as the very same structure through which Pashinyan came to power.
Furthermore, the ARF has consistently been a constructive extra parliamentary oppositional force. It has extended a helping hand in matters of national significance, it has mobilized the expertise of its ranks to offer thorough input and feedback to the government on various matters, and (as it has since its founding) has placed the resources of its global infrastructure at the service of the Armenian people and republic.
Unfortunately, not only has this sincerity fallen on deaf ears, it has been responded to with insulting attacks by Pashinyan and his teammates. But worse of all it has not stopped Pashinyan from overstepping the Constitution and putting our democracy on the verge of collapse.
It is now left up to each of us to ask the critical questions, to question the intentions of each responsible individual, and in coming to terms with the facts before us, to rally behind those who are guided by a moral compass that transcends self fulfillment (at minimum) and is instead led by an ideology and a program – those who have proven their dedication to our state and Cause for more than a century.
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