ARF Bloc Will Not Take Part in Parliamentary Session

YEREVAN (Yerkir)—The parliamentary bloc of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation announced Tuesday that it will not take part in the year-end extraordinary legislative session, during which government initiatives will be presented, saying the government was using the session in an attempt  to rush through important legislation.

“It is not the first instance that at the close of the year, the government schedules an extraordinary session with a hefty agenda,” said ARF bloc president Vahan Hovannesian. “In other words, what they should have done during the year, they are trying to put on a fast track.”

Hovannesian said that was unacceptable for the party, despite the possibility of there being bills, which the ARF might support, pending a substantive discussion and debate in parliament.

Hovannesian explained the bloc’s decision by outlining that the short period of time, during which the bills are to be passed, does not allow members of parliament to properly acquaint themselves with the bill, make recommendations and allow the government to process those suggestions.

He said, it is evident that the government will not accept any changes and as a result the bloc has opted out of the session and is urging other parliamentary factions to do the same. Among the 141 bills being proposed by the government are amendments to laws regulating construction, mining and the state pension system, as well as an effort to push through amendments allowing the existence of private foreign-language schools in the country—a highly controversial issue with significant opposition.

Representatives of the Heritage Party, the other opposition party represented in the parliament, also denounced the government but decided not to boycott the session. “We are not sure that our boycott would influence the hearts and minds of the parliament majority and that they would understand that the process is not legitimate,” Heritage’s Stepan Safarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

The ARF’s concerns were also shared by some deputies from the pro-government Prosperous Armenia Party. “I don’t welcome discussion of very important and decisive laws in this fashion,” one of them, Vartan Bostanjian, told RFE/RL.

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