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Opposition Faction Cries Foul Over Parliament Committees Formation


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian addresses the newly elected National Assembly, Yerevan,18May,2017

The opposition Yelk faction in the Armenian National Assembly claimed on Monday it was deprived of the opportunity to lead a standing committee following what the alliance of three parties believes was an unfair approach shown by the parliament majority.

Edmon Marukian, a representative of the nine-member faction, insisted that Yelk could have its member lead a standing committee dealing with human rights, but at the suggestion of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia’s (HHK) the number of standing committees had been reduced from 12 to 9, with the committee in question merged with the one on state and legal issues where a majority representative was to be elected as head.

In the current distribution of leadership roles in the Armenian parliament the regulations apply the so-called D’Hondt method under which opposition parties also get to participate in some leadership roles proportionally to their representation. Senior officials in Armenia have argued that this change in the electoral code that became possible after the country’s constitutional transition to a parliamentary form of government will make it possible to increase dramatically the role of the opposition in state governance.

On Saturday, representatives of the HHK were elected heads of six of the committees, while the second largest parliamentary bloc of tycoon Gagik Tsarukian that had declared itself an opposition faction got leadership positions in the remaining three committees.

Many observers in Armenia challenge the opposition credentials of the Tsarukian alliance, arguing that in many cases representatives of this faction will go along with the majority during the parliament debate and votes, which was also manifested during the election of parliament speaker and his deputies (the Tsarukian alliance got the position of one deputy speaker) last week.

Marukian believes that the changes in the Constitution and the Electoral Code eventually did not make any difference as the real opposition did not get any advantage. He said that “one thing is written in texts, but another thing is the reality.”

Armenia- MP Edmon Marukian is a guest at Azatutyun's News Center, 23 January 2015
Armenia- MP Edmon Marukian is a guest at Azatutyun's News Center, 23 January 2015

“De jure we had the right [to have a committee head] under the D’Hondt method, but de facto that committee was dissolved,” Marukian said. He stressed that the kind of approach by the HHK “nullifies” whatever President Serzh Sarkisian was saying about the increased role of political parties and the opposition in his address to lawmakers last week.

Vahram Baghdasarian, the leader of the HHK parliamentary faction, however, disagrees with the kind of assessment by his opposition colleague. He believes that the Tsarukian bloc “is also an opposition”.

“This was not the HHK that regulated this distribution of leadership positions, this was the result of the application of a formula,” said Baghdasarian, criticizing Yelk for “being after a committee head’s position”.

Armenia -- Parliament majority leader Vahram Baghdasarian gives an interview to Azatutyun.am, Yerevan, 18May,2016
Armenia -- Parliament majority leader Vahram Baghdasarian gives an interview to Azatutyun.am, Yerevan, 18May,2016

Baghdasarian also disagreed with assessments that the human rights committee was “dissolved”. He said that simply it will be part of the committee on state and legal issues and will also be in its name.

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