“Life after Coronavirus․ Referendum”

On May 15, Political Dialogue hosted a LIVE discussion on its official Facebook page aimed at understanding the situation surrounding the postponed referendum and the legal and political prospects for resolving it.

The guests of the discussion were Arman Babajanyan, independent MP and Lousineh Hakobyan, the president of the "Europe in Law Association" NGO.

 Օn February 6 of this year, the National Assembly, by 88 votes in favor and 15 votes against, decided to put the issue of terminating the powers of Hrayr Tovmasyan, Chairman of the Constitutional Court and six members of the Court, to a national referendum.

 Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan during the online press conference on May 16 stated that the referendum cannot be held for at least a year, and on the other hand one cannot wait so long for the solution of the constitutional crisis.  

 Nikol Pashinyan considers the crisis of the Constitutional Court to be an internationally recognized issue, emphasizing that it cannot be abandoned. The government considers resolving the crisis in the parliament by any means.

"We were thinking of holding the referendum this year, then hold another one during the next parliamentary elections in 2023, but now due to the changes brought by this epidemic, this timetable is not quite working. Therefore, we have now appealed to the Venice Commission, and yes, we are now discussing ways of partly or fully resolving the Constitutional Court issue in the Parliament," the Prime Minister said.

In an interview with RFE/RL the RA Minister of Justice Rustam Badasyan did not rule out that the issue of resolving the constitutional crisis may be transferred to the parliament. At the moment, however, there is no decision to cancel the referendum.

The guests of the LIVE discussion assessed the scenario of resolving the crisis of the Constitutional Court as probable, noting that in the current situation it would be the best option to solve the issue as soon as possible.

 During the discussion, they also touched upon the questions addressed to the Venice Commission on the crisis of the Constitutional Court.

 Addressing the query of RFE/RL on what concrete questions were sent, Rustam Badasyan said that he could not disclose the details yet. “It is very soon to discover all the details, but it’s obvious that they are connected to Article 213 of the Constitution”, -he said.

 This article refers to the tenure of the members and the President of the Constitutional Court.

 It should be noted that the Armenian authorities did not receive the expert opinion of the Venice Commission on the draft constitutional amendments put to a referendum.

 Lousineh Hakobyan said that there was no need to apply to the Venice Commission for several reasons, one of which was that due to its current staff and external influences that it was subject to, it was not able to give an impartial expert opinion. She considered that both the issues and the solutions were clear, the authorities just had to start solving the problem.

Ruben Rubinyan, MP from "My Step" faction, also expressed his opinion on the resolution of the Constitutional Court crisis, stating that the crisis over the Constitutional Court could be resolved "in alternative way, faster and without a referendum."

 "We cannot wait so long and move forward with our reform agenda and the establishment of justice, without resolving the crisis of the Constitutional Court. Therefore, I would like to inform you that, that taking into account that the epidemic can last quite a long time, we are looking for ways to resolve the crisis in the Constitutional Court in other and faster way,” -he said.

Other scenarios for resolving the crisis were also discussed during the LIVE. In particular, the speakers referred to the legal regulations and mechanisms for postponing or canceling the referendum.

Arman Babajanyan detailed that after the end of the state of emergency, the National Assembly will definitely address this issue and most likely will recall it. This will be the legal solution.

 At the end of the discussion, the guests agreed that the crisis of the Constitutional Court should be resolved as soon as possible, after which significant reforms should be made in the judicial system as well.

 A full LIVE discussion is available on Facebook page of PD: https://www.facebook.com/PoliticalDialogueNGO/videos/695736390999143/