Over half of the MPs are “silent” and do not partake in the session activities while some of them occasionally show up at sessions. The procedures defined by law are violated, with the session agenda having scheduling conflicts.
The results of the monitoring of the sixth session of the National Assembly were presented by the members of the Mandate NGO. The Parliament Monitoring Project is implemented by the Mandate NGO and funded by the Open Society Foundations-Armenia.
The panelists included: Lusine Vasilyan, head of the Parliament Monitoring Group; Gor Abrahamyan, expert at the Parliament Monitoring Group; Gagik Melikyan, MP, Armenian Republican Party Faction (ARP); Artsvik Minasyan, MP, ARF Faction; Alexander Arzumanyan, MP, Heritage Faction; and Edmon Marukyan, MP.
“Within the sixth session, the Parliament of the fifth convocation adopted 132 laws (46 legislative initiatives) 13 out of which were drafted by MPs, with 119 proposed by the Armenian Government. The laws were mostly authored or coauthored by the Armenian Republican Party,” said Lusine Vasilyan.
The head of the monitoring group believes the opposition factions have limited capacities regarding the lawmaking activities. “The majority of the bills they propose either are not included in the agenda or turned down by votes. In addition, we have recently observed appropriation of the initiatives proposed by the minority,” she said.
During the sixth session the monitoring group detected a violation of procedures and decrease of trust towards the Ethics Parliamentary Committee. “Violating the procedures defined by the law, the Parliament considered and did not vote for the 2015 program for the Control Chamber. The 2013 Annual Report of the same chamber was not discussed either,” said Gor Abrahamyan.
The monitoring report ranks Gagik Tsarukyan, Head of the Prosperous Armenia Faction (PAP), the first in the list of absentee MPs; Republican MPs Razmik Zohrabyan and Hovhannes Sahakyan voted for the majority of bills, with Nikol Pashinyan from the Armenian National Congress emerging as law maker who voted against most bills. The most active in asking questions and making speeches was Artsvik Minasyan.
“Traditionally, 67 out of 131 MPs did not come with questions or speeches at the discussions of bills. Half of the ARP and PAP factions are “silent”: 40 out of 70 and 26 out of 36 respectively,” noted Lusine Vasilyan.
It is the political environment in Armenia, Edmon Marukyan believes, that caused the emergence of 70 “silent” MPs at the National Assembly. According to the MP, several of the bills he brought in the committees were discussed and approved but they were not included in the agenda of four-day sessions for a long time since special sessions were held to consider various bills. “With this respect, the role of the National Assembly is diminished year by year,” he stated.
Gagik Melikyan from the governing ARP Faction, however, contradicted his colleague describing the National Assembly of the Fifth Convocation as the most active. With respect to “silent” Republican MPs, Melikyan replied, “In our faction there seem to be more “silent” MPs because it is the biggest faction. Besides, these very MPs work in the committees.”
The Parliament is exerted pressure on, Artsvik Minasyan believes. “The Government brings a lot of bills to the floor. These bills are sometimes rather imperfect and MPs do not manage to tackle them all. One and the same provision is amended and the National Assembly appears to be constantly revising itself. Changes are needed to eliminate the negative effect it has on the Parliament’s repute,” said Artsvik Minasyan.
Alexander Arzumanyan spoke on the absentees and activities of the Ethics Committee. The number of meetings missed must be calculated based on diversified criteria, the MP said. “For example, Hrant Bagratyan is in the top ten of absentee MPs but he often misses sessions when he is lecturing, which is allowed by law,” he clarified. “As for the Ethics Committee, the person who used to swear still swears and it is difficult to speak about the efficiency of the committee,” he added.
With respect to the assignment to check the number of absences of MPs which followed President Serzh Sargsyan’s critical speech addressed to PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan on February 12, Gagik Melikyan told the journalists the checkup is underway and absentee MPs submit the required documents. “Some of absentee MPs have already filed the documents, some are still expected to. The documents are being currently processed and the final decision will be made by the Speaker of the National Assembly. It is in his capacity,” he concluded.
Arshaluys Mghdesyan, Editor-Coordinator