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Armenian Parliament Approves Community Enlargement


Armenia - Deputies from the ruling Civil Contract party preside over parliamentary hearings on a controversial enlargement of Armenia's communities sought by the government, Yerevan, September 22, 2021.

In a move strongly condemned by its opposition minority, the National Assembly approved on Friday a controversial government proposal to merge the vast majority of Armenian cities and villages into much bigger communities.

A government bill passed by lawmakers will turn 441 existing communities into 38 administrative units that will resemble districts. Armenia will have a total of 79 communities, including the capital Yerevan, as a result.

Most of the current communities already consist of multiple villages and/or small towns consolidated by the former Armenian government.

The current government has opted for a further community consolidation, saying that it will make local self-government and budgetary spending on communities more efficient.

Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Gnel Sanosian defended the measure during a parliament debate. He said government experts have concluded that good governance and socioeconomic development is highly problematic in rural communities with fewer than 3,000 residents.

Sanosian assured their residents that every small Armenian village will retain its administration subordinate to the wider community leadership. “No settlement in Armenia will be liquidated or renamed,” he said.

Many elected community heads are strongly opposed to the consolidation. The country’s two main opposition groups have also denounced it as arbitrary and unfounded.

Lawmakers representing them walked out of the parliament at the start of Friday’s debate in protest against what they called an unconstitutional bill.

Hayk Mamijanian of the opposition Pativ Unem bloc claimed that the government is pushing through the bill to get rid of elected local officials affiliated with or sympathetic to opposition parties.

Government officials have denied any political reasons for the community enlargement.

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