By Astghik Bedevian
The National Assembly passed on Wednesday a controversial government bill that keeps open the possibility of a change of Armenia’s national anthem, something which is strongly opposed by a junior member of the ruling coalition.
The government drafted the bill late last month after shelving plans for the adoption of a new anthem in place of the “Mer Hayrenik” (Our Fatherland) song. The decision followed a failed song contest that was administered by an ad hoc government commission formed earlier this year.
The bill stipulates that “Mer Hayrenik” will remain the country’s “provisional” anthem pending the adoption of a new, permanent one. It was rejected by some opposition parliamentarians and, more importantly, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), which has four ministers in President Robert Kocharian’s cabinet. All of them voted against the draft law when it was approved by the cabinet on October 26.
“Mer Hayrenik” was also the official anthem of a short-lived independent Armenian republic that was founded and governed by Dashnaktsutyun from 1918-1920. The nationalist party regards it as an important symbol of Armenian statehood, dismissing complaints about its simple theme voiced by some prominent politicians and artists. Dashnaktsutyun leaders are pressing for a different law that would perpetuate the song's official status.