Lawyers set up group to campaign against constitutional referendum in Armenia. Update
Former Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia, former Ombudsman of Nagorno-Karabakh, co-founder of the Legal Way public organization Ruben Melikyan has submitted an application for the formation of a group that will campaign against the referendum on constitutional amendments. The Central Election Commission must review it within three days.
The initiative group, which includes 61 lawyers, believes that the decision to hold a referendum is contrary to the Constitution. They also argue that the decision to bring the issue of constitutional amendments to a referendum was unlawful.
The Armenian authorities have given the inhabitants of the country the right to decide the fate of the Constitutional Court.
Amendments to the country’s main law are aimed at dismissing six judges and the head of the Constitutional Court, who took office under the previous government. The “revolutionary” government of the country considers them incapable of administering justice in the new conditions.
The lawyers say themselves will not participate in political discussions – their range of activities will be limited only to the legal sphere. And registration will allow them to use free air time to express their position and monitor the referendum process through proxies.
A campaign for the constitutional referendum scheduled for April 5 has begun in Armenia.
However, so far only supporters of amendments to the constitution are participating in it. The headquarters of those who are “against” has not yet been registered.
The referendum should put an end to the proceedings around the drama concerning the Constitutional Court, which has been going on for several months.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his government, who came to power after the “velvet revolution” of 2018, consider it necessary to terminate the powers of six judges and the head of the Constitutional Court, who took office under the previous government.
The “revolutionary” government considers them incapable of making fair decisions in the “new” Armenia. The court itself and the parliamentary opposition disagree with the opinion of the authorities.
After lengthy bickering, the ruling parliamentary bloc in February 2020 approved a decision to hold a popular referendum, and the fate of the Constitutional Court in Armenia was handed over to the people.
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Supporters of the constitutional amendments
Those in favor of the dissolution of the composition of the Constitutional Court have already formed headquarters for the campaign led by the ruling parliamentary My Step faction.
On February 17, Prime Minister Pashinyan attended the headquarters meeting. He did not answer the question of journalists whether he would personally participate in campaigning for changes to the constitution.
However, before the campaign began, the prime minister actively called on the people to vote for the removal of judges representing the former government in the Constitutional Court. Nikol Pashinyan even wrote a poem about the referendum and published it on his Facebook page, once again reminding everyone of the date of its holding:
“I dedicate these verses to the victory of proud citizens of the Republic of Armenia on April 5.”
The head of the headquarters is the Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Suren Papikyan.
Some time ago, scandalous information appeared in the media that the minister had concealed his criminal record: while serving in the army, he stabbed his commander with a knife.
Papikyan himself believes that they are simply trying to slander him and thus cast a shadow both on the headquarters, which he heads, and on the process of constitutional changes as a whole.
“I was released under an amnesty, and my criminal record was thus absolved,” said Papikyan.
On the headquarters of opponents of constitutional amendments
February 17 was the last date for opposition political forces to form headquarters for the campaign, but they never did.
According to the Central Election Commission, now any civil group consisting of no less than 50 people can take this initiative.
The human rights activist Ruben Melikyan earlier called for the creation of a headquarters of opponents of constitutional amendments.
“We are starting consultations on the formation of an anti-campaign campaign based on a civic initiative,” Melikyan said.
However, experts consider it unlikely that other human rights and public organizations will join him.
Parliamentary opposition will not participate in campaigning
The leader of the Bright Armenia opposition faction, Edmon Marukyan, described the future referendum as “absolutely illegal and anti-constitutional” and said that his party would not participate in any processes related to the popular vote.
The Prosperous Armenia party, headed by oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan, called the referendum “a legally vulnerable process.”