- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 18, 2003 

Case Closed: Highest court denies Demirchyan appeal, criticizes election process

The Court denied Demirchyan, challenged Kocharyan to a  referendum.The Constitutional Court of Armenia has turned down an appeal by presidential candidate Stepan Demirchyan that the March 5 election of Robert Kocharyan be declared invalid.

The Court's decision, however, was not an endorsement of the controversial election, as the Court's ruling declared results invalid in about 40 poling stations, and has ordered the Prosecutor General's office to investigate and bring appropriate charges in those cases.

The published decision by chairman of the Court Gagik Harutyunyan said that it "takes into account" the margin of votes as well as "the number of inaccuracies" recorded in the runoff - ruling, it would seem, that Kocharyan would have won even without the votes that the Court determined invalid.

While the Court found in favor of the President, a portion of the decision drew angry reaction from Kocharyan and his supporters. Specifically, the Court decision recommended that a "Referendum of Confidence" be held within the next year to "overcome public confrontation".

Last evening the President's press service released a statement essentially saying that the Court had overstepped its bounds by suggesting the referendum.

"That part of the Constitutional Court's decision is just a suggestion, which should have been recorded not in the act of law, but presented as a suggestion made by some individuals," the statement said. "Proposing a referendum on confidence is at least surprising, and cannot, of course, be implemented. President Robert Kocharyan has gained a confidence vote by getting a convincing 67.5 percent votes advantage, and he is not going to follow/accept any proposals."

Harutyunyan called a news conference today to react to the press office statement and to criticism from Prime Minister Andranik Markaryan.

"It is written in the Constitution that the authority belongs to the people, and people execute this authority not only trough the representative democracy, but also through the immediate/direct democracy," Harutyunyan said. "We have found that in this framework the option of referendum on confidence can be chosen as a way of overcoming confrontation. However, one shouldn't conclude immediately that the Constitutional Court is raising a vote of no confidence to the president."

The Constitutional Court decision said events surrounding the recent election were inconsistent with obligations undertaken by Armenia to comply with international conventions and hamper the development of democracy.

Attorney Dallakyan: If election is legal, why have a referendum?The decision was also critical of the widespread arrests of opposition party supporters that followed both rounds of the election, saying the Court regards the arrests as "interference with article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms providing right to freedom of peaceful assembly."

Among many objections he made to the Court decision, an attorney representing Demirchyan said the Court's call for a referendum is inconsistent with validation of the election.

"The elections which took place don't inspire confidence," said attorney Viktor Dallakyan, who is also chairman of the Standing Committee On State And Legal Affairs of the National Assembly. "If the elections were legal then what is the sense for a referendum of confidence?"

Dallakyan pointed to the decision's statement concerning "the atmosphere of intolerance and mistrust created as a result of the presidential elections…" as an endorsement of claims his side has been making since the first round of elections on February 19.


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  Photo of the week
  Spring Rites
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Spring Rites

April 13 was "Tsaghkazard", known in other places as Palm Sunday, the week before Easter, marking the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. Here, part of the commemoration includes making wreaths from branches which are worn by young people and then placed in homes. The day is also the seventh Sunday of the Great Fast, as observed among the Armenian Apostolic Church.



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