Sarkisian Doesn’t Dismiss Plans to Create Senate for the Diaspora

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian has declined to deny statements from his Diaspora Minister that he will seek to establish a second house of Armenia’s parliament where representatives of the worldwide Armenian Diaspora would be able to hold seats.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Hranush Hakopyan announced Sunday at a meeting with Armenian-Americans in Southern California at the Arbat Golden Palace organized by the Consulate General of Armenia to Los Angeles, Asbarez reported Monday.

She said Sarkisian believes that “certain changes within the governing structure of Armenia are needed to allow Diaspora Armenians to be part of Armenia’s government.”

“In assessing the issue, the president of Armenia has come to the conclusion, and is making suggestions, that yes, certain changes within the governing structure of Armenia are needed to allow Diaspora Armenians to be part of Armenia’s government,” explained Hakopyan.

Hakopyan said this would take the form of constitutional amendments leading to the establishment of an upper chamber of parliament. She did not clarify just how its Diaspora members would be elected and whether they would have to be Armenian citizens.

“The first step by the president was the creation of the Diaspora Ministry, through which substantive policies for Armenia-Diaspora relations were put forth. The second was the establishment of the dual-citizenship institution, and clearly we are taking the third step by creating the upper house through which the Diaspora Armenian will have a voice in the governing of the country and in creating policy,” explained Hakopyan.

Hakopyan’s explanation that the proposed upper house of the legislature would allow Diaspora Armenians to serve as representatives in Armenia was met with applause and excitement by the audience.

Sarkisian’s press secretary, Armen Arzumanian, did not deny this, saying that the president asked prominent Diaspora Armenians to propose ways of boosting Armenia-Diaspora ties at a meeting in Yerevan last May. “This is one of the possible proposals that deserves consideration along with many others,” Arzumanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in a written statement sent later on Monday.

Arzumanian did not specify who is the author of that proposal. He stressed instead that Armenia’s constitution can be amended only under “a complex and long procedure.” “Naturally, there would have to be public discussions and detailed professional studies for making such a decision,” added the presidential spokesman.

“It’s a proposal that deserves attention,” Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Tuesday. “It once again reaffirms the fact that President Sarkisian is the leader of not only the Republic of Armenia but also all Armenians. He is doing everything to ensure that Armenia-Diaspora ties are at a high level.”

“We support the idea,” said Artyusha Shahbazian, a senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, an opposition party that has branches in all Diaspora communities abroad.

“But if it is not put into practice correctly, it could deal a heavy blow to the Diaspora and split it further,” cautioned Shahbazian.

The Armenian constitution can only be amended through referendums. Changes in its text must be backed by at least one third of Armenia’s 2.4 million eligible voters.

The Armenian authorities already pushed through a long list of constitutional amendments in a 2005 referendum marred by opposition and media allegations of vote rigging. One of those amendments lifted a constitutional ban on dual citizenship. It was meant to strengthen Diaspora Armenians’ links with the country of their ancestors.

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15 Comments

  1. Razmig said:

    BAD IDEA, this may open wide the doors of foreign influence on our homeland… NO, NO, NO…
    This will also have divisive implications in the diaspora… imagine people jockeying for positions for this so called “parliament”… it will indirectly give Armenia’s authorities undue influence on local diaspora affairs, the whole thing smells $$$$$ to me, a ploy to attract some rich Armenians from the Diaspora and “sell” them seats of glory in this so called “Parliament”

    • Marc said:

      Who are you Razmig? a turkish fake ID trying to throw divide between Armenia and her diaspora? go F… yourself

  2. Hye-phenated said:

    Armenia should invite professionals form Diaspora to serve in the Executive Branch – in Deputy Minister positions. These should be 3-5 year contracts for deserving experts who should be paid competitive salaries and be able to form their own teams to accomplish specific tasks.

    E.g. Ministry of Agriculture, Small Business Administration, etc. – increase agricultural exports by 200% within 5 years. These individuals should have experience in Armenia and abroad, sign transparency plans and performance reviews. Same for Ministries of Education, Health and Social Services, etc.

    As for seats in the Parliament, let people who pay taxes elect their representatives regardless of where they come from. Even if diaspora Armenians paid 1% income tax that would be enough to allow them to vote for their candidates. Without paying taxes it will be just hot air.

    • Heghapokhagan said:

      We “Don’t want Businessmen In Diasporan Parliament”
      they would be just like Hovnanians!! We want Political Party Organization leaders Only… which are Obviously ( in Alphabetical Order!!!) Huntchag, Ramgavar, Tashnag

  3. Armanen said:

    A great idea. Razmig, you are just a pessimist and I bet that you do not like anything which the Sargsyan administration does.

  4. Shant said:

    It doesn’t seem likely that the Armenian government would so willingly just give up a lot of power and influence to Diaspora Armenians. To me, I think this is mostly a symbolic gesture if anything. This new upper house could also take on the role of the upper houses in other bicameral democratic regimes, in that their powers are limited and make decisions only in designated circumstances. We just have to wait and see what becomes of this proposal.

  5. Ashot Markosian said:

    Why does Asbarez constantly cut comments from and references to Ter-Petrosian/Armenian National Congress in RFE/RL stories posted on this website? Isn’t that censorship, a distortion of the stuff you reprint free of charge?

    In this particular case, your “editing” of the RFE/RL story left the false impression all major political forces in Armenia suppport the idea of a Diaspora legislature. The original story (www.armenialiberty.org/content/article/2294502.html) rightly showed that this is not the case by citing the views of Congress leaders. Sadly, you chose to remove them.

  6. Random Armenian said:

    Shant,

    That’s what I was thinking. The Canadian Senate just goes along with what the House of Commons puts forth. I like Hye-phenated’s idea much better.

  7. Gaghant Baba said:

    It amazes me (but does not surprise me) that some Armenians (presumably from Armenia) are opposed to the diaspora Armenians being part of Armenia’s future.

    I consider such people enemies of our people and country, and short-sighted as well as irresponsible. In other words you are telling 6 million Armenians to get lost, while Armenians in Armenia continue to leave the country. It is clear to me that before we deal with our enemies outside, it would be wiser to deal with our enemies inside.

  8. Armanen said:

    Ashot:

    Maybe Asbarez doesn’t reprint what ltp and his goons have to say because it’s always the same crap. Serj is evil, he must go, Armenia is dying because of him, blah blah blah. They will never have anything positive to say. Even if Jesus Christ came back, met with Serj and said Serj is good man, ltp and his goons would still find something negative to say. The real opposition in Armenia is ARF and Heritage.

  9. Abo said:

    A good step for better democracy,the armenian diaspora will do only good for the people of armenia as hole

  10. Avetis said:

    Bravo President Serj Sargsyan!!! From your cementing of Armenia’s crucially important strategic alliance with Russia to your farsighted embracing of our vast diaspora, from attempting to start a dialogue with Turks to establishing better relations with Iranians, you are gradually putting in place the foundations of a powerful nation in the Caucasus. Under your leadership, Armenia’s and Artsakh’s borders have never been more secure and Armenia’s top leadership has never been more professional. Although our self-destructive peasantry will not appreciate all that you have done for our republic, the fact is, in many respects, you are our first real president. Although the intention of better integrating the diaspora to Armenia is wonderful in theory, in practice, however, it may prove to be somewhat difficult. As those involved with the ARF and the Armenian Assembly clearly reveal, many in our diaspora today work for the Anglo-American-Zionist global empire. The last thing we need is for more Hovannisians, Hovnanians, Onnik Krikorians, Richard Giragosians, Van Krikorians and Mardo Soghoms to move to Armenia as “representatives” of the diaspora…

  11. Arto said:

    A council of the Diaspora sounds like a good idea. They could play a role like the Canadian Senate, where they don’t have real power to bring/vote laws. Thier role would be more consulting. They would hold hearings on new bills and give thier suggestions. They could table new laws but it would have to be voted by the parliment.

    Armenia need western ideas to help it move to western thinking asap. This council could play help.

    • Armanen said:

      What do you mean by ‘western ideas’? There are good and bad ideas from the west, sadly more bad ones. If you mean refined, humanistic ideas that have their origins in Renaissance, great, if you mean globalization, forget about it!

  12. Pahakazor Hayrenyats said:

    The idea itself is a noble one — to invite the Diaspora to have a say in the legislature, a government body that makes laws for the land. There is a myriad of questions and challenges, however, both philosophical and practical. As always, the devil is in the detail.

    Philosophical being should the Diaspora have a say in “internal” matters like taxation, socio-economic matters, etc? Issues that do not have an impact the life of a Diasporan like myself, unless I have some kind of a business interest in Armenia. Do we, as Diasporans who chose not to live in Armenia (for different reasons, most of them practicality of abandoning established businesses/lifestyles and starting from scratch in a new challenging environment) should have a say in something that affects the lives of people who live in Armenia? Should we have a say in matters of war and peace if war isn’t going to have a sensible impact in our lives living outside of Armenia in a place like Florida?

    And practical challenges being what would be the relationship between the upper and lower houses of our Parliament? What is the ratio of Diasporans vs. locals represented in the upper house? Does the legislation travel between the two houses like it happens in the United States Congress? And of course — who gets to become Diasporan member of the upper house? Do elections happen in the Diaspora communities? Do elections happen based on the general Armenian population or gets somehow distributed among the “traditional” Armenian organizations, half of which are dead anyway? At this point in history we don’t even know how many Armenians live in a given country. And if Russia, let’s say has 2 million Armenians living there, does it mean that 40% of all Diaspora delegates will be from Russia?

    Again, noble idea, no doubt. But for something like this to happen there should be serious research, systematized, honest exchange of ideas and approaches, non-partisan discussions, targeted working groups who would provide expert opinions on all the aspects. But this too is not going to be easy. There will be pulling and pushing, every Armenian group will start lobbying for its narrow partisan interests. People whose only driving force in life (and who are plenty in our communities) is their ego will clash like never before.

    Anyhow, let’s work hard and hope for the best.

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