The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia (Armenian: Հայաստանի Հանրապետության Ազգային ժողով, Hayastani Hanrapetyut'yan Azgayin zhoghov or simply Ազգային ժողով, ԱԺ Azgayin Zhoghov, AZh), also informally referred to as the Parliament of Armenia (խորհրդարան, khorhrdaran) is the legislative branch of the government of Armenia.
Before 1995, It was referred to as the Supreme Council of Armenia and formerly known as the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic under Soviet rule.
The National Assembly is a unicameral body. The National Assembly consists of at least 101 seats, but with additional seats allocated it may grow to about 200 seats in extremely rare cases. The current President of the National Assembly is Ara Babloyan.
According to a law adopted in 2016, parties need to pass a 5% threshold and coalitions 7% respectively to be included in the distribution of mandates.
The election system reserves 50% of votes cast in favor of each party to be distributed via party lists. Out of these, four mandates will be assigned to national minorities first of all (provided they are included on party lists). A party list can not include over 70% of representatives of the same sex and its every four consecutive entries shall include members of both sexes.
Another 50% of votes received by each party is distributed among their territorial lists submitted in 13 electoral districts.
If neither party wins over 50% of mandates, a second round of elections is held. After the first round, the two best-placed parties participate in the second round. All mandates received during the first round are preserved. The party that wins the second round is given an additional number of mandates to reach 54% of all seats.
If any party or coalition wins over two-thirds of the mandates in the first round of elections sufficient additional mandates will be distributed among all other parties to ensure that at least one-third of all seats are given to parties other than the winning one.
|Way Out Alliance||122,049||7.78||9||9|
|ORO Alliance (Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanian)||32,504||2.07||0||5|
|Armenian Communist Party||11,745||0.75||0||0|
|Electorate and turnout:||2,588,590||60.86||—||—|
|Source: Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Armenia|
The National Assembly has nine standing committees:
Ad-hoc committees are special temporary committees established by the decision of the National Assembly to discuss certain draft laws, or investigate certain issues, events or facts and to submit conclusions to the National Assembly. The aim of these committees is to draw attention to exceptional cases that are not covered by the standing committees.
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, Article 73 “If appropriate, interim committees may be established as prescribed by the law on the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly for preliminary discussion of certain draft laws or for submitting to the National Assembly opinions, statements on certain issues, events and facts”. Following the consideration and definition in the Constitution the Law on Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly clearly defines all the issues concerning the add-hoc committees. More particularly, according to the article 22 of the mentioned law, add-hoc committees are created by the decision of the National Assembly. The decision should contain information relating to the tasks, terms and procedures of an add-hoc committee, meaning that the committee should operate only in very strict limitations set to the spheres of its investigation, the resources it may gain access to and also to the timeframes. The ultimate reason for existence of such committees is to deliver a report on its finding during a session of the National Assembly. Based on these reports, the Deputy may create a draft resolution in 2 days and if agreed by the Lead Committee, the resolution may be included in the draft agenda for upcoming four-day session.
One of the current add-hoc committees of the National Assembly of Republic of Armenia is the Committee on Ethics. This is not a classical add-hoc committee as it does exist during every session of the National Assembly but the committee functions till the beginning of the successive session when a new committee is formed.
According to the Article 24.1 of the Law of the Republic of Armenia on the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, each faction has the right to nominate at least 1 Deputy to the ethics committee. The chairperson of the committee and the vice-chairperson are appointed from the members of the committee by the nomination of faction, although the Chairperson of the National Assembly is the one to appoint the chairperson of the ethics committee, the vice chairperson, and to approve other members. If the chairperson of the ethics committee is from a non-opposition faction, the vice chairperson should be from the opposition faction and the vice versa. Factions have the right to change their representative in the ethics committee.
According to the Article 24.2 of the Law of the Republic of Armenia on the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly the ethics committee provides conclusion to the National Assembly on violation by a Deputy of the requirements not to be engaged in entrepreneurial activities, not to hold offices in state or commercial organizations, and not to perform other paid work except for scientific, pedagogical or creative work (1st Paragraph of the Article 65 of the Constitution). The committee also decides if there was a violation of 2nd Paragraph of the Article 6.1 of the mentioned law i.e. the very basic requirements to abide the laws, to respect moral norms of the society, to be respectful to the colleagues, not to be guided by personal interests and so on, provides a Deputy with conclusion if his/her job is scientific, pedagogical or creative and more. The Committee on Ethics can require and obtain materials and documents relevant to the issues examined by the committee from any state agency; it can also demand to the state agencies with the exception of courts, judges and prosecutors to carry out checks, studies and expert examinations on the issues examined in the committee. The members of the ethics committee are free to enter any state institution or to examine any document relating to the case.
Any individual can apply to the committee on ethics in cases prescribed by the law. The applicant should submit a written application with all the relevant documents. By proposal of the chairperson of the ethics committee but no later than ten days the committee starts the examination of the issue raised in the application or rejects its examination. The committee on ethics finishes its examination of the issue in 30 days after starting an examination; it may also extend the deadline by 20 days in case of necessity to implement a deeper research.
The sittings of the committee are closed except of cases when the Deputy in the application suggests holding an open sitting. Sitting of the committee is valid if at least half of the members are present, and the sitting is held by the chairperson of the committee, the vice chairperson, or another member according to the prescriptions of the law. Member of the committee assigned for the examination of the issue is the main reporter and the Deputy indicated in the application is the supplementary reporter. The decisions and conclusions of the committee are adopted by the majority of votes if more than half of the members participated in the voting. The content of the application and name of the Deputy indicated in the application are not publicly available until the adoption of the final decision. The members of the ethics committee and other people participating in the activities of the committee cannot publicize details of the examination.
One of the recent cases in this committee was an application indicating names of several Deputies and reporting that they voted instead for other Deputies during the voting. After examining the application, listening to the committee member appointed for the case and to the accused Deputies the committee on ethics found them guilty of violating the duty to abide the laws. Also, in order to eliminate this kind of issues in the future, the committee made a suggestion to make supplements and changes in the Law of the Republic of Armenia on the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly more specifically consider voting instead for other Deputies disturbance of the order and enforce the presiding officer to take immediate disciplinary measures against these Deputies that is depriving the Deputy from the right to be present during the session of the National Assembly. The National Assembly approved this suggestion.
This committee was established in February 2014 to examine the protection level of natural gas consumers’ interests (calories of supplied gas, testing gas usage counters, argumentations for the loss), examine the lawfulness of the accumulation of debt for natural gas during 2011-2013 and reasonableness of the amount of debt, to make predictions about the possibilities of alternative gas importers and other thoroughly listed issues relating to the gas supply system in Armenia as a whole including examination of prices for the gas and international practices.
The committee hold closed sittings, the decisions and conclusions were adopted by the majority of votes, the committee had the right to require and obtain materials and documents relevant to the issues examined by the committee from any state agency; it can also demand to the state agencies with the exception of courts, judges and prosecutors to carry out checks, studies and expert examinations on the issues examined in the committee and so on. The committee presented its findings and conclusion during the session of the National Assembly of 7 April 2015.
According to the new constitution of the Republic of Armenia (Constitutional Reforms), the functions of committees previously defined as ad-hoc committees are divided into temporary and inquiry committees. As stated in article 107 of the new Constitution, temporary committees may be developed only by the decision of the National Assembly to discuss certain draft laws and acts of the National Assembly and present views or statements connected to the National Assembly.
Article 108 is about the inquiry committees of the National Assembly.
1. The inquiry committee should be formed if at least the twenty-five percent of the total number of parliamentarians present the demand, in order to acquaint facts of public interests to the National Assembly.
2. The National Assembly regulates the number of members of an inquiry committee. The places of the inquiry committees should be proportional to the number of faction's members. The chair of the committee should be the member of the parliament who presented a request.
3. If minimum one-quarter of an inquiry committee demands; state, local self-government bodies and officials are compelled to introduce to the committee required information regarding its remit, if the information is not classified as secrets protected by law.
All the other regulations concerning temporary and inquiry committee should be established by the Law on Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly
According to the latest Constitutional Reforms the Republic of Armenia will have a parliamentary state governance system. This means that compared to the semi-presidential system the powers of the Parliament will be enhanced, an example of this is the right of oversight of the executive power of the republic which is and will be exercised by the Government (as of article 85 of the current and article 145 the new Constitutions). So, the Parliament will have more powers and functions; therefore, it needs more tools to exercise these powers and perform its functions. An inquiry committee is a great tool for the parliament to exercise oversight and that is why according to articles 107 and 108 of the new Constitution there is a differentiation between temporary and inquiry committees.
However, in late 2015, there was a concern relating to the powers of these committees as prescribed by the article 108 of the new Constitution. Edmon Marukyan, the only non-party Deputy of the National Assembly of Armenia, suggested an addendum to the point 3 of article 108. According to him, the addendum should prescribe that the inquiry committees should be empowered to demand state and local self-government body officials to be present in the sittings of the committees and provide relevant explanations. The improvement was suggested for the first time on September 11, 2015, during the session of the Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs of the National Assembly. By then, the suggestion received a positive feedback and the committee members stated that it could be approved on the constitutional level. However, the decision on the official proposal to the National Assembly was to include the addendum in the rules of procedure of the NA rather than in the Constitution.
The international experience shows that giving such powers to inquiry committees is a common thing. Point 7 of rule 176 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament states that “A committee of inquiry may contact the institutions or persons referred to in Article 3 of the Decision referred to in paragraph 2 with a view to holding a hearing or obtaining documents.” Even though it was prescribed neither by the Constitution nor the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly that temporary committees have the power to hold a hearing with the presence of state and local self-government body officials, there was such a case when the committee held a closed-door hearing. On October 23 of 2008 with the order of the President of Armenia, a temporary committee of experts was formed on obtaining facts and evidence on the incidents of March 1, 2008. So as to gain the necessary information the committee was given the tools typical to a real parliamentarian inquiry committee.