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Armenia To Hold Referendum On Constitutional Court Amid Spat With Pashinian

The chairman of Armenia's Constitutional Court, Hrair Tovmasian, was charged in December with abuse of power. (file photo)

YEREVAN -- Armenia is set to hold a referendum on constitutional changes in April, in an attempt by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to remove a majority of judges at the country’s Constitutional Court.

President Armen Sarkisian signed a decree on February 9 setting April 5 as the date for the vote, three days after parliament voted to hold the referendum that 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.

“On April 5, we will say "yes" to the Revolution, say "yes" to Freedom and slam the door on corruption,” Pashinian wrote on his Facebook page after Sarkisian signed the decree.

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.

His critics say the prime minister is seeking to gain undue control over the courts.

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.