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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Members of Armenia’s parliament will be obliged to know the full text of the national anthem by heart under a proposed code of ethics to be debated by the National Assembly soon.

The legislation has been drafted by the parliament’s committee on legal affairs and formally endorsed by the leaders of its pro-presidential majority. They on Thursday voiced their support for the unusual requirement.

“I think that the deputies must really know it by heart,” said Mher Shahgeldian, a senior lawmaker representing the Orinats Yerkir party of parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian.

Other majority leaders appeared to speak for many of their colleagues when they admitted that their knowledge of the anthem’s lyrics leaves much to be desired. “I don’t know the full text of the state anthem. It’s very difficult for me learn this anthem,” said Galust Sahakian, the leader of the parliament’s biggest faction controlled by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party.

“Nobody has the right to teach anyone something by law,” Sahakian complained before assuring reporters that he will try to comply with the measure.

“That’s OK,” said deputy speaker Vahan Hovannisian. “He’ll learn. It’s not that tough.”

“I knew it even before it was adopted as national anthem,” Hovannisian added, referring to the Mer Hayrenik (Our Fatherland) song the lyrics of which are based on a 19th century verse by Mikael Nalbandian, a prominent Armenian poet.

The song was also the national anthem of the first independent Armenian republic that existed from 1918-20. Incidentally, the short-lived republic was founded and governed by Hovannisian’s Armenian Revolutionary Federation party.

The proposed code of ethics, which is meant to prevent deputies from bringing the assembly into disrepute, has already sparked debate due to some of its controversial provisions. Under one of those provisions, lawmakers would not be allowed to publicly comment on criminal cases before court verdicts.

Sahakian appeared to be unaware of that despite signing the draft code along with fellow faction leaders recently. “If there is such stupidity [in the code], I will fight hard against it,” he said. “Deputies must have a right to make political assessments.”

The parliament’s second vice-speaker, Tigran Torosian, has also expressed serious misgivings about the bill.
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