YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s highest court on Friday declared unconstitutional a legal provision that has enabled pro-government forces to overcome a yearlong boycott of Vanadzor’s municipal council by its majority representing opposition parties.
The council elected in October 2016 chose Mamikon Aslanian of the ruling Republican Party (HHK) as mayor of Armenia’s third largest city despite the fact that the HHK and its ally, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, control only 15 of its 33 seats. The 18 other seats were won by the opposition Bright Armenia, Prosperous Armenia and Armenian Revival parties.
Aslanian received 19 council votes cast in secret ballot, meaning that four opposition councilors secretly broke the ranks. It is still not clear who they are. Opposition leaders believes that they were forced to vote for the HHK candidate.
All 18 opposition councilors began boycotting sessions of the Vanadzor legislature immediately after Aslanian’s controversial election. Despite the lack of quorum, the 15 other, pro-government councilors have held sessions of the councilor and adopted decisions on its behalf since March. The Vanadzor municipality has insisted that those decisions are valid, citing an article of Armenia’s Law on Local Self-Government.
Last month, twenty-six opposition members of Armenia’s parliament asked the Constitutional Court in Yerevan to strike down that clause which they believe contradicts the constitution.The court accepted that demand. But it also ruled that the legal provision will remain in force until March 31, 2018,
It remains to be seen whether the pro-government minority in the municipal council will continue to hold its sessions until then. Two of the opposition lawmakers that appealed to the court, Artak Zeynalian and Edmon Marukian, said after the announcement of the ruling that such sessions would be illegitimate.