By Ruzanna Stepanian
The lifting of a constitutional ban on dual citizenship whould not automatically give Diaspora Armenians the right to vote and get elected to a public office in Armenia, leaders of the governing coalition told RFE/RL on Tuesday.
Senior lawmakers from the governing Republican Party (HHK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said ethnic Armenian citizens of other nations will have that right only if they live in Armenia, have served in its military and pay taxes.
Dual citizenship is among the numerous constitutional amendments which citizens of Armenia will endorse or reject at a referendum on November 27. The existing constitution, enacted in 1995, bans them from being the citizens of other states. Many Armenian parties believe that the restriction is unjustified given the existence of the worldwide Armenian Diaspora. President Robert Kocharian pledged to abolish it when he came to power in 1998.
“We have a national security issue,” said the HHK’s Samvel Nikoyan. “Every step taken by us should serve that purpose. Anything beyond that is not acceptable to me.”
“For example, giving one or two million Armenians of Russia the right to vote mean that the outcome of every Armenian election is decided in Russia,” he added. “Can we allow such a thing? Of course not.”
Levon Mkrtchian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, agreed, saying that the right to vote must be pegged to a number of conditions such as a minimum residency requirement. “A Diaspora-based citizen’s rights would be commensurate with the fulfillment of their obligations,” he said.
Mrktchian said Dashnaktsutyun experts are already working on a draft law on citizenship. He said it will be circulated as early as next spring if the constitutional amendments pass the referendum.
The allies of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, who enacted the controversial constitution in 1995, remain strongly opposed to dual citizenship.