YEREVAN – Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has urged voters to back proposed changes to the constitution that would lead to the removal of a majority of Constitutional Court judges.
Pashinian made the call on March 10 as he kicked off his campaign ahead of next month’s referendum on the proposed reforms.
“I urge you to go to polling stations on April 5 and confirm that you are sending home this old Constitutional Court, which had patronized all electoral frauds in Armenia in the past,” he said in a speech in the town of Meghri.
If approved, the proposed constitutional amendments would lead to the dismissal of seven of the court’s nine members installed before nationwide protests swept Pashinian to power in 2018.
The seven would be replaced by judges to be confirmed by the National Assembly, in which Pashinian’s My Step bloc holds a majority.
The court’s two other judges, who were appointed to their posts later, will keep their powers.
In his speech in Meghri, Pashinian said the Constitutional Court “does not represent the people” and is “the only remaining institution in Armenia that is not in compliance with the current constitution.”
Pashinian has accused the seven judges of maintaining ties to Armenia’s former leadership and impeding reforms that he says are aimed at creating an independent judiciary.
Rejecting the referendum as unconstitutional, opposition parties accuse the prime minister of seeking to gain undue control over the Constitutional Court.
The chairman of the Constitutional Court, Hrair Tovmasian, was charged in December with abuse of power while he was serving as justice minister. He has denied the accusation as politically motivated.
Earlier in December, a controversial law gave Tovmasian and the six other Constitutional Court members financial incentives to resign before the end of their mandates. None of them has accepted the offer.