YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — President Armen Sarkissian has nominated a prominent lawyer for the Constitutional Court after the current parliament twice rejected other candidates chosen by him.
The nominee, Vahe Grigoryan, has a long history of human rights advocacy. He has also cooperated with opposition groups that challenged former Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharian.
In particular, Grigoryan represented Levon Ter-Petrosian and his Armenian National Congress party in Constitutional Court hearings on their appeals against official results of a 2008 presidential election and parliamentary elections held in 2012 and 2017. In addition, he has been representing the relatives of anti-government protesters killed by security forces in the wake of the 2008 vote in the European Court of Human Rights.
Grigoryan is believed to be enjoying the backing of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and the ruling My Step alliance.
President Sarkissian already nominated him for the vacant Constitutional Court seat last fall. The then Armenian parliament dominated by supporters of the former government refused to approve his candidacy.
Sarkissian went on to nominate two other candidates. They both were rejected, most recently on Wednesday, by the current National Assembly controlled by My Step.
The head of state announced his decision to pick Grigoryan on Friday. In a statement announcing the nomination, his office argued that the appointment of a new Constitutional Court judge “must not turn into an endless process and become a subject of political haggling or speculation.” It also complained that only several Armenian lawyers are deemed qualified enough to sit on the country’s highest court.
Parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, who is a close associate of Pashinyan, hailed Grigoryan’s nomination as “highly positive,” saying that he has long had a “close relationship” with the nominee. He said they have “a lot in common in terms of the value system and vision for country’s development.”
Mirzoyan cautioned at the same time that My Step’s parliamentary group has yet to discuss and formulate a position on Grigoryan’s candidacy.
By contrast, some opposition lawmakers voiced serious misgivings about Sarkisian’s latest Constitutional Court nomination.
Gevorg Petrosian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) said Grigoryan is widely “associated with the authorities” and that the latter “seem to be attempting to push him through.” He said the BHK believes that the new court justice must be “free from political influence, pressures, connections and constraints.”
For his part, Taron Simonian, a senior deputy from the opposition Bright Armenia Party, claimed that Armenian law does not allow the president to nominate the same person for a second time.