Loaded Legislation: NA in sharp debate over presidential authority and state of emergency

Loaded Legislation: NA in sharp debate over presidential authority and state of emergency


Heated discussions were held at the parliament around the government-submitted bill on “Legal Regime for a State of Emergency” clearly defining the relations between armed forces and citizens in a state of national emergency.

The voting on the draft law has been postponed for the lack of quorum.

Ruling Republican party MP Rafik Petrosyan spoke against adopting the bill in its present form. With reference to the RA Constitution he said that the armed forces should not be involved in politics and a political struggle, they should not interfere in political processes.

“Politics is none of militaries’ business, let’s leave our army alone. So, now my son or my grandson must come and shoot at me for holding a rally?!” he said in frustration.

Lilit Galstyan from oppositional Armenian Revolutionary Federation faction stresses that the parliament is not authorized to implement legal actions in the bill.

“I have to refer to article 81 of RA Constitution which says that the National Assembly (NA) has the power of annulling the provisions of articles 13 and 14 by which the president can declare emergency state or martial law and take respective measures,” says Galstyan.

She believes that these provisions should have been reflected in the submitted draft law, granting the parliament its constitutional right to approve (or not) those measures.

Petrosyan shares this opinion: “The National Assembly approves or makes corrections in the presidential order, or annuls it, while here we have castrated the National Assembly, depriving it of all of its rights. So we sign and with our own hands turn our parliament into ‘a doormat’,” he said.

Galstyan says that this bill would grant the kind of authority to our presidents that are typical of a caliphate.

“We can’t just allow the president such appropriation of power. It doesn’t matter whether it’s today’s president or his successors. They submit laws to the parliament that are cut and shaped to fit one person forgetting, however, that laws are not meant to solve ‘situational issues’,” says the Dashnak MP.

Heritage’s Zaruhi Postanjyan says the bill contradicts the RA constitution, especially the point about the use of armed forces.

She says in 1996 even without such a law the authorities brought in the army after the presidential elections and used it against people, and they did the same in 2008.

“We created our army to defend our motherland, our territorial integrity and our independence. It has not been created to protect an official who has illegally taken the office and declared himself a president or feels entitled to become one illegally,” she says. “The third time the armed forces are brought against our people it may lead to a situation when the army itself goes against the dictator.”

ARF faction has submitted a package of suggestions, expecting complete exclusion of army involvement in a state emergency. Heritage faction urges the government to call back the bill.

Last week the government complied and withdrew the bill later submitting an amended draft.

Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan stated that the issues against the bill are more of political character and are largely conditioned by pre-election sentiments.

“We can understand that our opponents are taking advantage of this occasion to voice certain arguments in the political field. If the parliament does not adopt the bill, that’s a decision too,” said Sargsyan.”