YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Members of the informal minority coalition in the Armenian parliament intend to contest the constitutionality of the amended law on funded pensions portions of which were already recognized as unconstitutional earlier this year.
Artsvik Minasian, a lawmaker with the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), one of the four minority groups in the National Assembly also including the Armenian National Congress, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and Heritage, said that they will formally apply to the Court in September.
The opposition believes the government and the parliament majority represented by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have failed to address the concerns raised by the Constitutional Court in April when it recognized a number of provisions of the controversial legislation as contradicting the country’s basic law.
In its April 2 ruling the Court, in particular, found that it was against the Constitution to compel citizens born after 1973 to make monthly contributions to private pension funds in the amount of five percent of their salaries. The measure had sparked street protests led mostly by young professionals who had created a civil movement against the controversial reform.
The Court obliged the government and the National Assembly to come up with amendments to the law to bring it in line with the Constitution by the end of September.
The government and the HHK introduced changes in the legislation, passed them through parliament and saw them signed into law by the president already in June.
Under the new amendments to the Law on Funded Pensions, beginning on July 1, only public sector employees aged under 40 are required to make monthly “targeted social payments” in the amount of five percent of their salaries. These payments come to replace the pension contributions that the law envisaged in its former edition and partly because of which it was recognized as unconstitutional.
Unlike pension contributions that were to have been made directly to private pension funds, the new “targeted social payments” will be made to the state budget. Participating in the new pension system will remain an option for private sector employees until July 2017 when they will also be required to start making additional social payments.
The government insists that the new amendments address the concerns expressed by the Constitutional Court, at the same time keeping the overall pension reform alive.
But the opposition groups, which opted out of the vote on the new amendments that were narrowed passed by the majority HHK votes under the risk of an insufficient quorum, have already criticized the government for failing to meet the substantial requirement of the Constitutional Court, which is scrapping the element of compulsion.
Minasian, who represented the minority groups at the Constitutional Court hearings in March-April, said the Court’s requirements have been disregarded. He explained that the matter does not concern solutions to a number of technical problems, but rather the norms that have essentially been recognized as anti-constitutional.
“If any government thinks that it is possible to keep and apply the compulsory component of the law this way, with this procedure, then it is clear that it does not meet the interests of our state and our people,” he said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am). “I hope that the Constitutional Court will for the second time prove its high status and will again recognize these amendments as unconstitutional.”
Dashnaktsutyun and the BHK sent a letter to Parliament Speaker Galust Sahakian, demanding that the majority present mechanisms for suspending what they described as the “anti-constitutional” law. Senior BHK member Naira Zohrabian said, however, that in his terse reply the speaker essentially rejected the demand.
“We did not call for parliamentary hearings, but very clearly formulated the matter,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am). “The law was not passed through proper procedures and should have been canceled. Well, the four [minority parties] will again meet the parliament majority and the ardent advocates of this law in the Constitutional Court then.”