The National Assembly voted down draft amendments to the Constitution on February 6, 2020 and instead voted to place the amendments to a popular referendum. The proposed amendments envisage suspension of the powers of Hrayr Tovmasyan, Chairperson of the Constitutional Court of Armenia, and other Constitutional Court Judges appointed before April 9, 2018, a date when the new Constitution’s provisions on the Constitutional Court adopted in 2015 were to enter into force. That will leave the Constitutional Court suspended with the exception of two new judges, Vahe Grigoryan and Arman Dilanyan.
The specific changes to the 2015 Constitution are spearheaded by the ruling “My Step” Coalition. At an extraordinary parliamentary hearing that lasted 6 hours on February 6, Prime Minister Pashinyan provided an extensive justification for constitutional changes that target the set-up of the current Constitutional Court. In essence, the current Constitutional Court is made up of members that have varying terms and these configurations were set up during the transition period from the old Constitution to the new one in 2015. The Constitutional Court currently has superior powers, but the people in charge were appointed not with the current Constitution’s maximum term of 12 years per judge and 6 years of chairmanship by the same person, but up until the year of 2037 and beyond. According to Prime Minister Pashinyan, we live by a new constitution, however the members of the Constitutional Court were appointed in accordance with the old constitution which allows for endless terms for Constitutional Court members who served the former regime to usurp people’s power in Armenia. Such a set-up of the Constitutional Court will not allow for changes in the country, including changes to the Constitution itself, insist members of “My Step.”
88 parliamentarians voted in favor, 15 against of calling for a referendum on the proposed amendments to the Constitution. This decision is approved by the President of Armenia.
The amendments of the constitution will be voted on in a referendum in mid-April the latest and end of March, the earliest. They will pass if the simple majority of voters, not less than one-fourth of the registered voters, vote in favor (circa 644.000 registered voters). Around 1.2mln voters participated in the parliamentary elections in 2018.