Will there be a constitutional referendum in Armenia? Everything is in the hands of the opposition
A referendum has been scheduled in Armenia for April 5, 2020 which will decide on the dissolution of the composition of the Constitutional Court.
This concerns the current tenure of six judges and the head of the court, who took office under the former Republican Party of Armenia ousted in spring 2018; the current government considers them incapable of making unbiased, lawful decisions in the ‘new Armenia.’
However, the parliamentary opposition still has the opportunity to appeal to the Constitutional Court and challenge the referendum.
To do this, they need to collect the signatures of 27 MPs – one-fifth of the country’s main legislative body. So far, the opposition doubts that they will get enough votes.
Reaction of the prime minister
Nikol Pashinyan on his Facebook page immediately reacted to the message that the president had appointed the day of the referendum, and called on the inhabitants of the country to participate in it and “say yes to the revolution, say yes to freedom, say yes to the future and slam the door to corrupt officials.”
Pashinyan has been at the forefront of the standoff with the Constitutional Court, and has entered into public confrontation with its head, Hrayr Tovmasyan.
The prime minister even urged Armenian citizens who live abroad to come home and take part in the referendum:
“Moreover, flights are opened in 13 new directions, and you can order tickets from today at very low prices.”
Statement by the Venice Commission, the opposition and the Minister of Justice
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on the Armenian authorities to seek the opinion of the Venice Commission on Constitutional Amendments. This statement appeared on February 6.
One of the parliamentary opposition parties, Prosperous Armenia, is now waiting for this opinion, while the Bright Armenia faction does not have enough mandates itself to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
The head of the faction, Edmond Marukyan, stated that they are ready to challenge the decision to hold a referendum, but do not consider it necessary to initiate the process alone:
“We have 17 signatures, give us 10 more and we will turn [to the Constitutional Court].”
And on February 10, Minister of Justice Rustam Badasyan wrote on his Facebook page that he initiated a telephone conversation with the chairman of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio.
“During a telephone conversation, I touched on the latest developments in the constitutional change and referendum. I also expressed the readiness of the Armenian side to continue close cooperation with the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission on Judicial Reform.”