The last session of a regular four-day sitting of parliament saw some quite heated debates today.
A number of government-submitted bills were voted down, including bills that were adopted at first reading earlier.
The parliament even failed to ensure quorum initially, with only 48 lawmakers in the 105-seat legislative showing up, prompting Speaker Ara Babloyan recommending waiting.
He then requested faction leaders to summon their lawmakers to the session. After about half an hour, a few Members of Parliament arrived. After some time the parliament finally ensured quorum and the sitting began.
The Speaker called for a vote for the previously debated bill on amending the “Law On State Administration System Bodies”. Only 51 lawmakers voted in favor and 1 abstained, others didn’t take part. The bill failed to be adopted since it required a minimum of 53 participating MPs. After the vote the Speaker asked HHK faction MP Galust Sahakyan, a former Speaker, whether he wasn’t voting. Sahakyan confirmed he isn’t participating.
Then, the Speaker called for a vote for the bill on amending the Law On Subsoil. Again, 51 voted in favor and 1 abstained, failing the adoption.
The next bill in line was the bill on amending the Law on Insurance and Insurance Activities. Deputy Speaker Michael Melkumyan requested the floor and addressed the lawmakers, saying: “Dear colleagues, I am urging you all to participate in the vote in order not to fail the important bills of the government. I call on you to participate for important decisions to be adopted”. But again, only 51 voted in favor, and 1 abstained.
Yelk faction MP Hrachya Hakobyan’s bill on amending the Law on Advertisement was next. He requested the floor and addressed Galust Sahakyan, asking him to participate in the vote this time. “I believe this bill is urgent, because you can see to what extent the advertisements of these [bookmakers] are suffocating everyone,” Hakobyan said, referring to the activities of bookmaking companies – a recently debated issue. However, only 52 lawmakers voted in favor, and the bill again failed to be adopted. The Speaker announced that 1 MP did not vote. “But I guess the MP didn’t vote as a matter of principle,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Melkumyan called for a re-vote, but the Speaker disagreed.
The other Deputy Speaker, Eduard Sharmazanov, intervened and addressed his colleagues. “First of all I ask you to respect one another, we are all equal here. If no one has said that the button didn’t work and he was unable to vote, then there is no need for a re-vote. I myself voted in favor, I don’t know about others,” he said.
Melkumyan insisted to vote again. “I suggest us all to realize that this is a very important law that we must adopt,” he said. Nevertheless, a 2nd vote didn’t take place.
MP Edmon Marukyan’s bill on amending the Criminal Code was next. Tsarukyan faction MP Vahe Enfiajyan took the floor and expressed his concern over the situation. He said that the situation in parliament is inadmissible and unclear, “come, sit and disrupt the normal function”.
Marukyan asked the lawmakers to support his bill, because it concerns human rights protection and respect. “I attach great importance for it to be adopted, because it doesn’t have any political goal, it doesn’t have anything political, it is simply of humanitarian nature, and I am asking for us together to adopt it,” he said.
Tsarukyan faction MP Naira Zohrabyan joined Marukyan in the call. “I urge everyone to vote in favor of this bill and not fail it,” she said.
Sharmazanov, in turn, called for lawmakers to respect each other’s voting. “We are all Members of Parliament and are entitled to vote or not vote,” he said. At the same time, he expressed support for Marukyan’s bill. Despite numerous calls, the bill was voted down. Only 48 MPs voted in favor.
The parliament also rejected the bill of several Republicans who recommended amending the freedom of assembly law and banning rallies in territories of churches. Only 43 MPs voted in favor, again failing to adopt it.
The bill on granting the Catholicos of the Armenian Church state security detail was also rejected.
Republican lawmaker Hayk Babukhanyan urged his colleagues to adopt the bill. Yelk faction leader Lena Nazaryan, in turn, told the parliament that the government has already reassured that in the event of the Catholicos requiring security measures, the government will take appropriate actions, and that there is no need to have a separate law on this issue. Sharmazanov, on the other hand, called for the adoption of the bill, citing the “exclusive rights” of the church under the Constitution. The ARF also expressed support for the bill.
Only 28 MPs voted in favor, 10 abstained. The bill failed to be adopted.
Sharmazanov blasted the vote as “the most embarrassing vote in the history of independent Armenia”, and left the hall. Other HHK lawmakers left the hall soon after Sharmazanov.
The Speaker told everyone to remain in place since another bill must be voted for. “Each bill has its importance, this can’t go on like this,” he said.
The next bill was Tigran Urikhanyan’s proposed amendments to the Law on Education, which again was voted down. Only 32 MPs voted in favor. The required minimum number of participating MPs was 53. The bill was proposing to introduce more convenient conditions for students paying tuition fees.
Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan