Parliament narrowly passes government-drafted amendments to pension law amid opposition outcry

Armenian lawmakers on Saturday adopted in the first reading a government-drafted package of amendments to the law on funded pensions necessitated by the April 2 ruling of the Constitutional Court that found portions of the legislation to be unconstitutional.

The National Assembly’s majority represented by the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) that controls 69 seats in the 131-member body ensured the narrow passage of the amendments by 67 “yea” votes, with no nays or abstentions. (At least 66 lawmakers must take part in ballots for them to be considered valid).

But the opposition claimed that the ballot took place with violations, accusing some of the RPA members of voting instead of their colleagues.

The claims were brushed aside by RPA parliamentary faction leader Vahram Baghdasaryan and Parliament Speaker Galust Sahakyan, who said that everything was done in keeping with the regulations.

Under the new amendments, beginning on July 1, public sector employees born after 1973 will be required to make monthly “targeted social payments” in the amount of five percent of their salaries. These payments come to replace the pension contributions that the law envisaged in its former edition and because of which it was recognized as unconstitutional. Unlike pension contributions that were to have been made directly to private pension funds, the new “targeted social payments” will be made to the state budget. Participating in the new pension system will remain an option for private sector employees until July 2017 when they will also be required to start making additional social payments.

During the debate preceding the voting opposition lawmakers slammed the government for failing to keep its promise to remove the mandatory element from the law, further accusing it of discriminating between public and private sector employees.

Activists of Dem.am, a civic group campaigning against the mandatory component of the pension reform, has also indicated its intention to continue to oppose the controversial law.