Sunday, 11 April 2021

E Editorial

The Constitutional Court and Public Legal Consciousness

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Until 2018 public opinion did not play a major part in Armenia's political processes, and that had its reasons.  National elections did not inspire public confidence, since those merely were aimed at solving the matter of who would rule  Election bribes and other electoral manipulations assumed the dastardly role to this end.

After 2018 public opinion became controlling in political life, and a lot depended on it.  Everyone appeals to the people or speaks in its name, but no one ever clarifies who the "people" is, how it thinks, and what it wants.

If before 2018 the average citizen's views and value system were notso essential, today that factor carries decisive meaning.

Whereas everything was plain and understandable in the era of election fraud, now things are more complicated.  One of current-day Armenia's pivotal issues is the level of the average citizen's legal consciousness, together with his or her educational status and worldview coordinates.  On these characteristics depends the capacity to resist attempted manipulations of his or her consciousness.

Recent developments surrounding the Constitutional Court have their own specific logic and objectives.  The incumbent administration seems to be aiming for absolute power, and after the judiciary it will move on to the media and then smaller targets.  The high court, as with all others, wants to be independent of executive-branch control, and it matters not whether this is on principle or based on other interests.

But it is difficult to comprehend how the average citizen assesses the matter, what kinds of points and counterpoints he or she uses to evaluate the processes and events.  Some conclude that the important thing is to punish the former rulers, while others favor the return to the people of every last drop of their "pillage."  Many prioritize the simple improvement of their social lot, and they cannot see a connection between that and the Constitutional Court.

There is but one small segment of society which grasps the legal categories: lawfulness, separation of powers, the equal application of laws.  According to that group, most important are the legal mechanisms, not the identity of a specific official or judge, or whether he is a good or bad man.  Such mechanisms will compel any and all to work and adjudicate within the bounds of law.

This is a question of legal literacy, with which unfortunately they have not imbued us, as future citizens, from childhood—in kindergartens and schools and through daily official propaganda.  As a result we face today a serious deficit in public legal consciousness, which in turn breeds a general indifference to justice, rights, and the legal system.  The apparent illegalities connected with the saga of the Constitutional Court are fruits of that apathy.

In this vein, as cruel as it sounds, the term "will of the people" becomes secondary because the qualifications of that "will" are visceral, spontaneous, and often illogical.  They are not systematized and are not based on clear benchmarks of value.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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Yerevan, Armenia


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The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect those of the Center.

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