Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (Sarkis Baharoglu photo)

Armenian Referendum Delayed Due to State of Emergency

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A constitutional referendum originally scheduled in Armenia for April 5 will be delayed after the country’s authorities declared a 30-day state of emergency over the novel coronavirus outbreak on Monday, March 16.

“Under Armenian legislation, a referendum cannot take place in conditions of a state of emergency. The referendum will take place no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days after the end of the state of emergency,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in parliament.

In the referendum Armenians are to be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment that would lead to the dismissal of seven of the Constitutional Court’s nine members installed before nationwide protests swept Pashinyan to power in 2018.

The seven, including Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasyan, would be replaced by judges to be confirmed by the National Assembly, in which Pashinyan’s My Step alliance holds a majority.

Originally, campaigning in Armenia’s referendum had begun on February 17. Pashinyan got actively engaged in street campaigning earlier this month. He took a vacation on March 10 to start a series of campaign rallies in provinces, but interrupted it and returned to work two days later after the number of coronavirus patients in Armenia had risen to six.

Parliamentary opposition parties then called for the suspension of the campaign. Edmon Marukyan, the leader of the Bright Armenia party, also spoke in favor of the government introducing a state of emergency.

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