By Astghik Bedevian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) made public on Wednesday the basic principles of its draft law on dual citizenship that will spell out restrictions on the civil rights of foreign nationals obtaining Armenian passports.
The legal framework envisages, among other things, that citizens willing to take part in elections held in Armenia will be to cast their ballots only inside the country. It would ban the opening of polling stations in Armenian diplomatic missions from.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders said that by proposing to make it practically impossible for Diaspora Armenians to affect the outcome of Armenia elections they hope to dispel speculation that the governing nationalist party will be the main political beneficiary of dual citizenship. The party is particularly influential in the Armenian communities in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
“It’s not that the whole world can’t wait to take part in our elections,” said Levon Mkrtchian, the leader of Dashnaktsutyun faction in Armenia’s parliament. “But since there are such concerns, we suggest introducing the concept of [voting only within] the territory of the Republic of Armenia.”
Another Dashnaktsutyun leader, Armen Rustamian, argued that his party would be physically unable to win a significant number of votes from its Diaspora supporters that would choose to become Armenian citizens. “That would require the Dashnaks to bring its supporters over here by plane. You can imagine how much one such vote would cost us,” he said.
Rustamian admitted that if the Dashnaktsutyun idea becomes a law hundreds of thousands of naturally born Armenian nationals residing in Russia and elsewhere in the world will be effectively stripped of their voting rights. He said the party is open to considering alternative proposals on the issue from other political forces.
The proposed principles do not specify conditions for granting Diaspora Armenians the right to vote and get elected to a public office in Armenia. Dashnaktsutyun’s senior partner in the governing coalition, the Republican Party (HHK) of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, believes that ethnic Armenian citizens of other nations can be granted that right only if they live in Armenia, have served in its armed forces and pay taxes.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders indicated, however, that military service must not be a necessary condition. “If a person has already performed his military duty in one country, his second country of citizenship must take this into account,” said Mkrtchian.
Mkrtchian and Rustamian added that their legal “concept” will serve as the basis for Dashnaktsutyun’s draft law on dual citizenship which they say will be put into circulation this autumn. They revealed that the HHK and the third party represented in the government, Orinats Yerkir, disagree with the proposed principles, but declined to elaborate.
Introduction of dual citizenship was made possible by one of the constitutional amendments that were controversially enacted by the Armenian authorities in a referendum last November. Dashnaktsutyun and other Armenian parties believe that a legal ban on dual citizenship, imposed under former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, was unjustified given the existence of the worldwide Armenian Diaspora. But Ter-Petrosian allies insist that its abolition could enable the ethnic Armenian foreigners, who outnumber Armenia’s population, to form governments and decide on other key issues facing the country.
(Photolur photo: Mkrtchian, left, and Rustamian speaking at a news conference.)