a place in one of these chairs come with immunity
Sunday (May 25) Armenians will vote to fill 131
seats in the National Assembly. They will choose
among 1,485 candidates, more than 11 per seat.
Profiles of the candidates range from the very
rich to the unemployed. They share a common wish,
to become lawmakers. And, unless the Constitution
is changed, the elected will share a common benefit:
immunity from prosecution.
According to the Constitution of the Republic
"A Deputy shall not be prosecuted or held
liable for actions arising from the performance
of his or her status, or for the expression of
his or her opinions expressed in the National
Assembly, provided these are not slanderous or
defamatory. A Deputy may not be arrested and subjected
to administrative or criminal prosecution through
judicial proceedings without the consent of the
Whether the next installment of Assembly members
will enjoy such protection is at issue in a package
of constitutional changes that will appear as
a referendum on Sunday's ballot.
Some here see the protection against prosecution
as a deserved perk. Others say it is a carte blanches
authorization for corruption.
As part of a special publication devoted to the
parliamentary elections, media-strengthening programs
IREX/ProMedia, conducted a poll asking citizens
whether their lawmakers should have immunity from
punishment if they broke those very laws.
Yerevan attorney Susanna Mailyan, says Parliamentary
immunity gives a chance for deputies to "expand
their illegal activities, sheltered by a deputy's
Out of 135 Yerevan residents participating in
the poll, 85 (62 percent) agreed with Mailyan.
Yerevan State University law student Armen Siranosyan,
25, called Parliament a place for those who, instead
of making laws can sit and expand their illegal
Sixty-three year old pensioner Gagik Poghosyan
is among the 38 percent who believe deputies should
get special privileges.
"They are chosen representatives of the
people aren't they," he says.
Which is the same argument some make as to why
deputies should not have immunity.
"A deputy is a chosen representative of
the people," said Vanadzor resident Albina
Martirosyan. "He is on level with the people,
thereafter he must be vested with as much immunity
as the people have."
Martirosyan's hometown was one of five regional
cities in which 249 residents were polled, out
of which 166 (66 percent) opposed immunity.
Fifty seven year old Meruzhan Sargsyan, 57, said:
"For acting freely and naturally it's necessary
to have immunity but not for growing rich."
Among those in the minority opinion were eight
who responded that "deputies know best what
Out of 21 political parties seeking seats in
the National Assembly only "Orinats Yerkir"
(Country of Law) political party advocates abolishing
the immunity clause in its campaign platform.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation has already
presented a bill to the Assembly that would abolish
immunity, however, it was voted down.
Ramkavar Azatakan (Democratic Liberal) party
representative Harutyun Arakelyan says deputies
should have immunity only outside Armenia, while
the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party says immunity
is essential for deputies to freely express themselves.
"Hzor Hairenik" (Mighty Motherland)
political party is against immunity and suggests
instead a law protecting deputies from political
Maria Minasyan, 19, will be voting for the first
time Sunday. She is in favor of something in between
immunity and liability.
"Let them be privileged for four years but
after that they can be deservedly punished,"