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Armenia - Government System

Armenia has a facade that it shows to the international community which masks a ruthless regime that operates entirely by mafia rules. The authorities are weak and require a cadre of critics to speak to Western diplomats and media, so that the regime appears somewhat tolerant of dissent.

Armenians voted 06 December 2015 on constitutional changes that supporters said would strengthen democracy, but critics warned facilitates a power grab. If passed, executive powers would be shifted from the president to the prime minister. The holder of the presidency is constrained by term-limits while the leader of the parliament is not.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said the proposed constitutional changes would bring political stability. "We will have a political stagnation in the country, if we don't support these changes," Sargsyan told reporters earlier this week. "The changes will make cooperation between different branches of government more effective ... and facilitate economic development and the protection of human rights."

In Armenian history the concept of parliamentary governance was born at the end of 18th century. SH. Shahamiryan in the work “Vorogayt Pararts” (1773, Madras) for the first time formulated the main provisions on constitutional republic and parliamentary order. In the extensive preface he condemns feudal-monarchical orders, substantiates the liberating ways from Turkish- Persian despotism and established principles of democratic orders.

The national constitution was the statute related to the inner life of the Western Armenians. It was adopted on May 24, 1860 by the National Assembly of Konstandnupolis and on March 17, 1863 it was ratified by the sultan government entitled “Statute of Armenian Nation.” The principles of the Belgian Constitution are the basis of the document and it carries the influence of the French Great Revolution. By the proposal of N. Rusinyan the document was titled “National Constitution.” The High Door (Supreme Authority of Turkey) was convinced that it will isolate the Armenians in national religious circles, keeping them away from state political issues, and in Europe will raise the prestige of Turkey as a legal-democratic and Europeanizing country.

September 23, 1991 the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia, assuming as a basis the results of the referendum, which took place on September 21, 1991, on coming out from the Structure of the USSR, the Republic of Armenia was declared an independent state. The Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia began its work on July 20. 1990 and completed on May 15, 1995. 1169 decisions and 185 laws were adopted during that term, 104 of which were “basic” laws and 81 on making amendments and addenda to the laws in function. International 148 treaties were ratified.

On July 5. 1995 the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia was adopted. Armenia’s constitution provides for a republic with an elected head of state and a unicameral legislature, the National Assembly.

The President of the Republic of Armenia is the head of State. The President ensures adherence to the Constitution and provides for regular functioning of legislative, executive and judicial authorities. The President is the guarantor of Republic of Armenia's sovereignty, territorial integrity and security. The President of Republic is elected by the citizens of the Republic of Armenia for a five year term of office.

The national police force is responsible for internal security, while the National Security Service is responsible for national security, intelligence activities, and border control. The president appoints the heads of both organizations, and they report directly to him. The police and the National Security Service continued to lack sufficient training, resources, and established procedures to prevent incidents of abuse. Impunity was a problem; there was no dedicated independent mechanism for investigating police abuse. In July the UN Human Rights Committee noted its concern about the lack of accountability of law enforcement officers in cases of excessive use of force and the lack of an independent mechanism for investigating police abuse. Executive power is exercised by the Republic of Armenia Government. The Government is composed of Prime Minister and Ministers. Based on consultations held with National Assembly factions, the President of Republic appoints the person nominated by the parliamentary majority to be Prime Minister or - where impossible - the person nominated by the largest number of NA membership. The President of the Republic appoints and discharges members of government on Prime Minister's proposal.

The single-chambered National Assembly (Azgayin Zhoghov) is the supreme legislative authority of the Republic of Armenia. The National Assembly of 131 deputies is elected through general elections. In the National Assembly, 90 members [previously 75] are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system to serve 5-year terms and 41 members are elected by plurality vote in single-member constituencies, also to serve 5-year terms. There is a five percent threshold for the party-list tier.

On May 6, 2012 the elections of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fifth Convocation were held. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers described the campaign leading to May 6 legislative elections as competitive but concluded violations of campaign provisions created an unequal playing field for participants and ran counter to the OSCE commitments. Unlike previous years, the ODIHR noted that the Central Election Commission “worked in an open and transparent manner” and “administered the elections in an overall professional and efficient manner.”In contrast to previous years, the Central Election Commission and the National Commission on Television and Radio attempted to ensure equal access to media for parties during the official campaign period. However, there were continued complaints that progovernment parties and individual candidates received preferential media coverage outside the campaign period.

The ruling coalition, led by President Sargsian’s Republican Party of Armenia, continued to dominate the political system. Six parliamentary factions were created in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fifth convocation: "Republican Party of Armenia" faction (69 Parliament Members,) "Prosperous Armenia" faction (37 Parliament Members,) "Armenian National Congress" faction (7 Parliament Member,) "Rule of Law" faction (6 Parliament Members,) "Armenian Revolutionary Federation" faction (5 Parliament Members,) "Heritage" faction (5 Parliament Members.) 2 Deputies were not included in those factions.

In the Republic of Armenia justice is administered by the courts in accordance with the Constitution and the laws. The courts operating in the Republic of Armenia are the first instance court of general jurisdiction, the courts of appeal, the Court of Cassation, as well as specialized courts in cases prescribed by the law. The highest court instance in the Republic of Armenia, except for matters of constitutional justice, is the Court of Cassation, which ensures uniformity in the implementation of the law. The Constitutional Court administers the constitutional justice in the Republic of Armenia.

The independence of courts is guaranteed by the Constitution and laws. The Constitution and the law define the procedure for the formation and activities of the Council of Justice. The Office of the Prosecutor General in the Republic of Armenia represents a unified, centralized system, headed by the Prosecutor General. The Office of the Prosecutor General operates within the powers granted by the Constitution and on the basis of the law.

In practice courts remain subject to political pressure from the executive branch as well as the expectation that judges would find the accused guilty in almost every case. The UNHRC reported in 2011 the government’s fight against corruption also had negative implications for the independence of judges, who appeared to be ordering harsh penalties from fear that any sign of leniency would arouse suspicion they had been bribed. One of the main impediments to a fair trial was the absence of an independent judiciary. Judges themselves lacked efficient legal remedies if the executive or legislative branch decided to punish them.

The vulnerability of judges to dismissal for their decisions, combined with the absence of any effective remedy for such treatment, had a strong chilling effect on the judiciary. The Council of Justice, headed by the chair of the Cassation Court, appoints and dismisses judges and may charge a judge with a miscarriage of justice, even for a ruling that was never appealed to a higher court or in which the appellate courts found no errors. The decisions of the council are not subject to review. There were reports the Cassation Court was directly involved in dictating the outcome of almost every case to lower court judges.

In 2009 voters chose the first Yerevan city council, a body of 65 representatives elected by proportional representation, who would then select the mayor from the party that wins the majority of votes. The mayor then, for the first time, appointed the 12 prefects to lead Yerevan's 12 administrative districts, who until now had been directly elected by voters. The post of Yerevan mayor is a unique one in the Armenian context, with the mayor governing between one-third and one-half of the country's population, and having at his disposal access to unparalleled administrative, financial, and political powers. It is for this reason that in 1995, when Armenia adopted its first post-Soviet constitution, then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian (LTP) justified the appointment -- not election -- of the mayor by famously saying, "the country does not need a second president." Yerevan's mayors had been feared and reviled by their political opponents, particularly for their brazen use of power to enrich themselves and their cronies, and for depriving opposing elites of any substantive role in the city's administrative, political, or financial life.

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Page last modified: 07-12-2015 10:58:05 ZULU