Absenteeism in Armenian Parliament

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Widespread absenteeism among fellow lawmakers nearly disrupted the start of the National Assembly’s spring session on Wednesday.

The 131-member assembly was forced to delay a planned debate by two hours after failing to make a quorum in the morning. It was also largely deserted on Tuesday–even though its electronic voting system indicated the presence of more than 66 deputies.

Deputy parliament speaker Vahan Hovhannisian said–"Many deputies have had their sense of responsibility weakened or simply lack it. They just don’t come to work."

The spring session began on Monday in the absence of parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian and several other deputies of the Orinats Yerkir Party–who are currently accompanying Baghdasarian on an official visit to several Gulf Arab states and will not be back until Friday.

Also contributing to poor attendance is the continuing boycott of parliament sessions by 23 deputies representing the National Assembly’s two opposition factions. The Artarutyun bloc and the National Unity Party (AMK) had earlier indicated that they will end the year-long boycott if President Robert Kocharian and his loyal parliament majority accept their proposals on constitutional reform. The presidential camp effectively rejected those conditions last week.

"The Artarutyun alliance–therefore–finds its participation in parliament sessions pointless," a spokeswoman for the bloc said.

Hovannisian–meanwhile–called for tougher sanctions against absenteeism. The parliament’s existing regulations already stipulate that a deputy who fails to take part in most parliament votes during a semi-annual session can be stripped of their mandate.

The provision could have been applied to the boycotting parliamentarians; however–the majority has so far avoided enforcing it.

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