In Armenian history, national assemblies or “ashkharhazhoghov”s (universal assemblies) were convened even in ancient times. National assemblies, not as we know them today, of course, were convened in Armenia from time to time. They were convened for adopting decisions on decisive issues faced by the nation, as well as adopting rules regulating social relations. Thus, the convened assembly of aldermen, ministers and clergymen, in Artashat, in 449 A.D., rejected an edict obliging the Christian subjects of Hazkert II to convert to Zoroastrianism.
After the breakup of the Arshakunyats dynasty in 428 A.D., the Armenian Church tried to join the centrifugal forces of the ministers and act as a guarantee of Armenian unity. The “ashkharhazhoghov” was replaced by a church assembly headed by the Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians. Religious issues were debated in the assemblies, which took place in Dvin (506, 554, 609, 645, 702), and hundreds of rules were adopted. The Armenian Church, due to historical circumstances, was obliged to become the head of the ministerial power and legislation. Hence, the Armenian legislation was mainly proposed by church rules, i.e. - “Kanonagirk Hayots.” It is an official collection of medieval legal documents, which consists of rule- articles, including spiritual-church, moral, ideological-political and economic-civil issues. They are summarized in 57 groups of regulations, with 1,332 specific rules relating to a variety of issues.
The book of the Armenian rules “Kanonagirk Hayots” was used as a source for Mkhitar Gosh’s and Smbat Sparapet’s, medieval law pillars, “Datastanagirks,” (Judgment Books) and was enriched by them.
This is, of course, very far from essential parliamentarianism, which assumes to be a permanently functioning representative legislature, elected by people. It did, however, include these primary components: the aldermen, in charge of deciding the people’s destiny, convened to debate and adopt issues by voting on decisions and rules critical for the nation, and to organize its activity and set up relations according to them.
The book of the Armenian rules was widely used in Armenia and in Armenian communities until the 1920s.
In Armenian history the concept of parliamentary governance was born at the end of 18th century. Sh. Shahamiryan, for the first time, formulated the main provisions on a constitutional republic and parliamentary system in the work “Vorogayt Pararts” (Snares of Glory) (1773, Madras).
He condemns feudal-monarchical regimes in the extensive preface, substantiates the path of liberation from the Turkish- Persian tyranny and the principles of the establishment of democratic systems.
The title of the second book of “Vorogayt Parats” is “Nshavak,” the application of which meant “order” and “constitution,” and is a synonym to the name “Armenian Constitution.”
“Nshavak” is a draft constitution (article 521) and presents future independent Armenia’s social-state structure, the establishment order of governance bodies and their powers, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, the organization of the economy, education, armed forces and other issues. Shahamiryan’s work is one of the unique achievements in the history of social-legal thought, where the proposed concepts, through certain systems, besides being the results of deep theoretical generalizations, are also cornerstone values of international constitutional developments.
Referring to the power of people, rule of law, representative democracy, separation of powers, social protection, constitutional justice and many other constitutional principles, for the first time in Armenian history, the complete and regulated system of the norms of state (constitutional) law is presented, not only generalizing Armenian and world social thought achievements, but also giving birth to a new state concept. The author certainly was well aware of democratic principles of state governance in Europe, and in particular, of Great Britain.
“The fruits of the tree of rights and justice” can become a base of a godly deportment, only through “fair Governments,” seeking the happiness of an individual and society in justice and legality, having a starting point of the imperative “...to live by the law and justice.” This is the greatest mandate of the author of “Vorogayt Parats.”
The National Constitution was the statute relating to the inner life of the Western Armenians. It was adopted on May 24, 1860 by the National Assembly of Konstandnupolis and on March 17, 1863 it was ratified by the sultan government and was titled, “Statute of Armenian Nation.” The principles of the Belgian Constitution were the basis of the document influenced by the French Great Revolution. By the proposal of N. Rusinyan the document was titled “National Constitution.” The High Door (Supreme Authority of Turkey) was convinced that it would isolate the Armenians within national religious circles, keeping them away from state political issues, and the prestige of Turkey would be raised in Europe as a legal-democratic and Europeanizing country.
The original constitution was in Armenian, however, the one considered official was the ratified Turkish text. The National Constitution, comprised of 150 articles, was reduced with only 99 adopted, as the articles deemed essential for the community were abridged. The number of the members of the national general assembly was reduced from 400 to 140, mainly due to a reduction of provincial representatives.
The National Assembly (legislative body), National Central Administration (executive body),
National Central Assembly (spiritual affairs) and Political Assembly (secular affairs) were established for conducting the inner affairs of the Western Armenians. Those were parliamentary (representative bodies). All men of age 25 had the right to vote and those over 30 could be elected to office. Closed, secret ballot elections were held, determined by the majority of votes.
In Western life, particularly in Turkey, the National Constitution was a new phenomenon, though it was a statute rather than a constitution. There could not be a real constitution under the conditions of sultan regime. That constitution did not contain any secure guarantee for either collective or individual rights of separate persons, and as it turned out later, there was no guarantee for the right to life or even the existence of the Armenian nation.
Even with its shortcomings, the National Constitution was a remarkable historical phenomenon. Its existence, however, was short-lived in Turkey. With tiny amendments it was continuously in force till 1896 when it was forbidden by the order of Abdul Hamid II. In 1908 it was reinstated until it was finally abolished in 1915.
A National General Assembly was founded in Eastern Armenia (1828, after joining Russia), the functions of which were defined by the “Polozheniye” statute, and ratified by Nikolay I on March 11, 1836. His main authority was the election of the Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians.
The parliament of the first Republic of Armenia, declared on May 28, 1918, was convened on August 1. A government was established, mainly comprised of Dashnaktsakans. Mr. H. Kajaznuni was appointed Prime Minister. In hard historical-political times, the Republic of Armenia, existing only two and a half years, was a country governed by parliamentary principles. The parliament was unicameral and had standing committees and a council of elders. The Government of the Republic was accountable to the legislative body - parliament.
During its existence, the Parliament functioned with four organized Governments - headed by Prime Ministers Mr. H. Kajaznuni, Mr. Alexander Khatisyan, Mr. Hamo Ohanjanyan and Mr. Simon Vratsyan. The Parliament was presided over Mr. A. Sahakyan (August 01. 1918 - August 01. 1919), Mr. A. Aharonyan (August 01.1919 - November 04.1920), and Mr. H. Kajaznuni (November 04.1920-December 02.1920).
Four political parties were functioning in a parliament founded on democratic principles - Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), Social -Democratic Hnchakyan Party (SDHP), Social Revolutionaries and People’s Party of Armenia, which formed parliamentary factions. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation was a ruling party, with a parliamentary plurality, while the others were in opposition.
The Armenian parliament, during its existence, adopted more than 1000 laws and legal documents, having the force of law relating to the inner and foreign policies of the Republic.
Notable are the legislative steps made relating to many big or small but essential issues such as declaring Armenian as a state language, establishing a State University, schools, libraries, museums, increasing pensions, salaries of workers and immigrants, organizing education for the children of victims who perished fighting for freedom, assigning material aid to Armenian authors, scientists, allotting scholarship for the youth, studying abroad, etc.
On November 24, 1920, the Government of Mr. H. Ohanjanyan resigned. The same day a new Dashnaktsakan Government was formed, headed by Mr. S. Vratsyan. On November 30, RSFSR Plenipotentiary Representative to Armenia, Mr. B Legran, proposed the Dashnaktsakan Government to transfer the government in a peaceful way to the Revolutionary Committee. The Government accepted that proposal and on December 2, 1920, in Yerevan, an agreement was signed between the RSFSR and the Republic of Armenia, according to which Armenia was declared a Socialist Republic.
Soviet power was established in Armenia on November 29, 1920. Under soviet rule three constitutions were adopted - in 1924, 1937 and 1978. Beginning in 1938, the ruling body of state power of the second Republic of Armenia was the Supreme Council of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, and before this it was the Congress of Councils. The Armenian SSR Constitution defined the powers of the Supreme Council of the ASSR. This Supreme Council of the ASSR was competent to solve, by the USSR and ASSR Constitutions, all the issues reserved for the ASSR authority. It was elected for a five year term, was unicameral, and was comprised of 340 MPs who were elected from electoral districts having equal population. The procedure of the activity of the ASSR Supreme Council and its bodies was defined by the Rules of Procedures of the ASSR Supreme Council and ASSR other laws. The ASSR Supreme Council appointed the President of the Council of Ministers of the Armenian ASSR, and by his presentation the composition of the Council of Ministers was established. By the latter’s recommendation, the ASSR Supreme Council was authorized to form and dissolve the ASSR Ministries and State Committees, to elect the Supreme Court, approve the ASSR economic and social development state plans, and the ASSR State Budget.
The ASSR Supreme Council had 12 Convocations.
I convocation - 1938
II convocation - 1947
III convocation - 1951
IV convocation - 1955
V convocation - 1959
VI convocation - 1963
VII convocation - 1967
VIII convocation - 1971
IX convocation - 1975
X convocation - 1980
XI convocation - 1985
XII convocation - 1990
The permanently functioning body of the Supreme Council of the Armenian SSR was the presidency, which, during the terms between the sessions, was exercising the functions of the supreme body of the state power. The President of the ASSR Supreme Council presided over the ASSR Supreme Council presidency. The Presidents of the ASSR Supreme Council presidium were Mr. M. P. Papyan (1938-1954), Mr. Sh. M. Arushanyan (1954-1963), Mr. N. Kh. Harutyunyan (1963-1975), Mr. B. Sarkisov (1975-1985), and Mr. H.M. Voskanyan (1985-1990).
On February 13, 1990 the Armenian SSR Supreme Council adopted a resolution to extend the authority of MPs, of the ASSR Supreme Council of the eleventh convocation, to May 20, 1990, which terms were scheduled to expire on February 24, 1990.
On the threshold of freedom, the Supreme Council of Armenia of the first convocation was formed in 1990, by the majoritarian electoral system (260 MPs), through two stages of balloting on May 20 and June 3. During that time Armenia was yet a Soviet Republic. In the new Parliament, which began to function July 20, two political forces were presented - the Communist Party and the Hayots Hamazgayin Sharzhum (Armenian Pan-National Movement, ANM). Later, the ANM, HRAK (Ramkavar Azatakan (liberal) Party of Armenia), ARF (Armenian Revolutionary Federation), ADPA (Agrarian Democratic Party of Armenia) and CPA (Communist Party of Armenia) party factions were formulated in the Parliament. The “Hanrapetutyun” (Republic) (38 MPs), “Artsakh” (11 MPs), “Liberal Democrats” (10 MPs) and the “Azgayin Arajadimutyun” (National Progress) (10 MPs) parliamentary groups were created in the Supreme Council. The ARF (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) faction was changed into a parliamentary group (12 MPs).
On August 4, 1990, Mr. Levon Ter- Petrosyan was elected President of the Supreme Council of the SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) of Armenia, and on August 6, two Vice Presidents were elected, Mr. Babken Ararktsyan, a first Vice President and Mr. Gagik Harutyunyan, Vice President.
On September 17, 1990, in the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia, parliamentary groups “Artsakhi Kanch” (Call of Artsakh) (26 MPs) and “Azgaynakan” (31 MPs), and on March 6, 1991 “Communist” (25 MPs) and “Hanrapetutyun” (Republic) (21 MPs) were created. On November 28, 1991 “Azgayin Zhoghovrdavarner” (National Democrats) (10 MPs) parliamentary group was created.
The Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia of the first convocation, during the first session, on August 23, adopted the declaration on “Armenia’s Independence,” with which the start of the establishment of an independent state was declared.
During the first session, on August 23, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia of the first convocation, adopted the declaration on “Armenia’s Independence,” with which the start of the approval of an independent state was declared.
Just after the adoption of the declaration on August 24, taking into consideration the declaration on “Armenia’s Independence,” the Supreme Council of the ASSR (Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic) decided to rename the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic into the Republic of Armenia, with the functioning Supreme Council of the 12th convocation to be considered as the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia of the first convocation.
On March 1, 1991, the Supreme Council adopted a decision on “Conducting a Referendum on September 21, 1991, in the Territory of the Republic of Armenia, related to secession from the USSR.
On June 25, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia fixed the day for the presidential elections of the Republic of Armenia on October 16, 1991.
September 23, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia, assuming as a basis the results of the referendum, which took place on September 21, 1991, related to secession from the USSR, the Republic of Armenia was declared an independent state.
On October 16, 1991, Mr. Levon Ter - Petrosyan was elected the first President of the Republic of Armenia and Mr. Gagik Harutyunyan was elected Vice President. On November 11 a special session of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia was convened dedicated to the ceremony of solemn oath of the President of the Republic of Armenia. On December 24, 1991, Mr. Babken Ararktsyan was elected President of the Supreme Council.
The Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia began its work on July 20, 1990 and completed it on May 15, 1995. 1,169 decisions and 185 laws were adopted during that term, 104 of which were “basic” laws, and 81 were amendments and supplements to existing laws. 148 international treaties were ratified.
On July 5, 1995, the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia was adopted.
On July 5, 1995, the elections (190 MPs - 150 majoritarian and 40 proportional electoral systems) of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the first convocation were held. Five parties overcame the barrier of the 5 % minimum vote requirement rule, as defined by the law. The seats were distributed the following way: “Republic” unity - 50% (20 MPs), “Shamiram” - 20% (8 MPs), CPA 15 % - (6 MPs), NDU 7,5% - (3 MPs), UNSD 7,5% - (3 MPs). Also the “Amendments” parliamentary group (31 MPs) was created in the National Assembly. 21 MPs were not included in a composition of any faction or parliamentary group. Later the parliamentary group “Yerkrapah” (17 MPs) was created.
Mr. Babken Ararktsyan was elected the President of the National Assembly. In 1998, at the beginning of February, a power crisis began in the Republic of Armenia. The President of the Republic of Armenia submitted his resignation, and this was followed by the resignation of the governing body of the National Assembly. Mr. Khosrov Harutyunyan was elected President of the National Assembly.
The work of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the first convocation was begun on July 27, 1995, and completed on June 9, 1999. Nine regular, 12 extraordinary sessions, 64 regular, 14 extraordinary and 2 special sittings were held. The National Assembly of the first convocation adopted 302 laws, 144 of which were “basic” laws, and 158 were amendments and supplements to existing laws. 154 international treaties were ratified, 658 decisions were adopted, 331 of which were normative, and 327 were protocols.
On May 30, 1999, the elections (131 Parliament Members: 75 majoritarian and 56 proportional electoral systems) of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the second convocation were held.
According to the results of the elections, six parties and an alliance overcame the barrier of the 5 % minimum vote requirement rule, as defined by the law. The seats were distributed in the following way: - “Miasnutyun” (Unity) alliance 41.69% (29 MPs), CPA 12, 09% (8 MPs), “Law and Unity” alliance 7,96% (6 MPs), ARF 7,86% (5 MPs), and “Rule of Law” party 5,28% (4 MPs), NDU 5,17 % (4 MPs).
From the 129 Parliament Members, 76 were partisan and 53 nonpartisan (not belonging to any party).
According to the party membership ratio, the composition of the Parliament Members was as follows: RPA - 24 MPs, ADP - 8 MPs, ARF - 8 MPs, CPA - 7 MPs, “Rule of Law” - 7 MPs, PDP - 6 MPs, NDU - 4 MPs, “National Unity” (CDU - Christian Democratic Union party) - 3 MPs, “Republic” - 2 MPs, CLU (“Constitutional Law” Union) - 2 MPs, NDA - 1 MP, NDP - 1 MP, “Mission” CDU party - 1 MP, Scientific Industrial and Civil Union - 1 MP, ANM - 1 MP.
In Accordance with the Constitution, on June 10, 1999, the first session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the second convocation was convened. Mr. Karen Demirchyan was elected President of the National Assembly and Mr. Albert Bazeyan and Mr. Ruben Miroyan were elected Vice Presidents.
After Mr. A. Bazeyan was elected Mayor, on September 13, 1990, Mr.Yuri Bakhshyan was elected Vice President of the National Assembly.
On October 27, 1999, the last day of the three-day sitting, during the question and answer session of the National Assembly and Government, five armed persons broke into the sitting hall of the National Assembly and opened fire on the Parliament Members and the Government Members. Mr. Karen Demirchyan, President of the National Assembly, Mr. Vazgen Sargsyan, Prime Minister, Mr. Yuri Bakhshyan and Mr. Ruben Miroyan, Vice Presidents of the National Assembly, Mr. Mikayel Kotanyan, Mr. Henrik Abrahamyan, Mr. Armenak Armenakyan, Members of Parliament, and Mr. Leonard Petrosyan, Minister of Operative Issues were assassinated.
After the crime of October 27, 1999, by the decree of the President of the Republic of Armenia, at the extraordinary sitting of the National Assembly convened on November 2, 1999, a new governing body of the National Assembly was elected. Mr. Armen Khachatryan was elected President of the National Assembly, and Mr. Tigran Torosyan and Mr. Gagik Aslanyan were elected Vice Presidents of the National Assembly.
Six Parliamentary factions and three parliamentary groups were established in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the second convocation. Parliamentary factions were as follows: “Unity” (created on June10, 1999, 46 MPs), “Communist Party of Armenia” (June 11, 1999, 8 MPs), “Armenian Revolutionary Federation” (June 11, 1999, 8 MPs), “Law and Unity” (June 11, 1999, 5 MPs), “Rule of Law” (June 10, 1999, 4 MPs) and National Democratic Union (June 11, 1999, 4 MPs). The parliamentary groups were as follows: “Agrarian-Industrial People’s Unity” (July 23, 2001, 11 MPs,” before that - “Stability” (June 10, 1999), “Armenia” (May 16, 2000, 12 MPs) and “People’s Deputy” (April16, 2001, 16 MPs).
The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the second convocation began its work on June 10, 1999 and completed it on May 14, 2003. Nine regular sessions and 22 extraordinary sessions were convened, with 61 regular sittings, 11 extraordinary, and 1 special sitting. The National Assembly adopted 543 laws, 170 of which were “basic” laws, and 373 were amendments and supplements to existing laws. 243 international treaties were ratified. 1,290 decisions were adopted, 342 of which were normative decisions and 948 were protocols.
On May 30, 2003, the elections (131 Parliament Members: 75 proportional and 56 majoritarian electoral system) of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the third convocation were held. According to the results of the elections, six parties and an alliance overcame the barrier of the 5 % minimum vote requirement rule, defined by the law, resulting in the following proportion. Armenian Republican Party 23,66% (23 MPs), “Justice” alliance 13,71% (14 MPs), “Rule of Law” party 12,60% (12 MPs), Armenian Revolutionary Federation 11,45% (11 MPs), “National Unity” 8,91% (9 MPs), United Labour Party 5,67% (6 MPs).
On June 12, 2003, the first session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the third convocation was convened. Mr. Artur Baghdasaryan was elected President of the National Assembly, and Mr. Tigran Torosyan and Mr. Vahan Hovhannisyan were elected Vice Presidents. On May 22, 2006, Mr. Artur Bagdasaryan submitted his resignation. On June 1 Mr. Tigran Torosyan was elected President of the National Assembly.
Six parliamentary factions were created in the National Assembly: “Armenian Republican Party” (June 13, 2003, 40 MPs), “Rule of Law” (June 13, 2003, 20 MPs), “Justice” (June, 13, 2003, 14 MPs), “Armenian Revolutionary Federation” (June 13, 2003, 11 MPs), “National Unity” (June 13, 2003, 8 MPs), “United Labour Party” (June 13, 2003, 6 MPs), and a parliamentary group, “People’s Member of Parliament” (June, 13. 2003, 16 MPs). Fourteen Parliament Members were not included in any faction or parliamentary group.
The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the third convocation convened its first session on June 10, 2003, and the last one was convened on April 9, 2007. Nine regular and 11 extraordinary sessions, and 25 three-day, 23 four-day, and 10 extraordinary sittings were convened.
During the third convocation, 980 laws were adopted, 152 of which were “basic” laws and 828 were amendments and supplements to existing laws. The authors of 89 of the adopted laws were Members of Parliament. The authors of the 875 other laws were of the representatives of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, and 16 laws were developed jointly.
1,400 decisions were adopted, 333 of which were normative decisions and 1,067 were protocols. 256 international treaties were ratified.
On May 25, 2007, the elections (131 Parliament Members: 90 proportional and 41 majoritarian electoral system) of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fourth convocation were held. On August 26, 2007 and on August 24, 2008, by majoritarian electoral system, additional elections were held.
The work of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fourth convocation began on June 7, 2007, and ended on May 31, 2012.
On June 7, 2007, Mr. Tigran Torosyan was elected President of the National Assembly, and Mr. Vahan Hovhannisyan and Mr. Ishkhan Zakaryan were elected Vice Presidents of the National Assembly. Later, on November 12, 2007, Ms. Arevik Petrosyan replaced Mr. Ishkhan Zakaryan, who was appointed President of the Control Chamber of the National Assembly. On May 20, 2008, Mr. Hrayr Karapetyan replaced Mr. Vahan Hovhannisyan, who submitted his resignation, and on May 18, 2009, Mr. Samvel Nikoyan replaced Mr. H. Karapetyan, who submitted his resignation. On September 29, 2008, Mr. Hovik Abrahamyan was elected President of the National Assembly after Mr. T. Torosyan submitted his resignation. At the November 14, 2011 sitting, Mr. H. Abrahamyan announced that he should prematurely resign to preside over the RPA headquarters during the forthcoming parliamentary elections. On December 6, 2011, Mr. S. Nikoyan was elected President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, and Mr. E. Sharmazanov was elected Vice-President.
Five parliamentary factions were established in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fourth convocation: "Republican Party of Armenia" (64 MPs), "Prosperous Armenia" (25 MPs), "Armenian Revolutionary Federation" (16 MPs), "Rule of Law" (8 MPs), and "Heritage" (7 MPs). These factions were established on June 7, 2007. Eleven Parliament Members were not included in those factions.
On April 30, 2008, the National Assembly endorsed the program of the Government of the Republic of Armenia.
During the fourth convocation, the National Assembly adopted 1,410 laws, 94 of which were "basic" laws, and 1,316 were amendments and supplements to existing laws. The MPs of the National Assembly were the authors of 207 adopted laws, and the Government of the Republic of Armenia was the author of 1,203 laws.
1,574 decisions were adopted, 329 of which were normative and 1,245 local. 214 international treaties were ratified.
On May 6, 2012, the elections (131 Parliament Members: 90 proportional and 41 majoritarian electoral system) of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fifth Convocation were held.
Six parliamentary factions were established in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fifth convocation: "Republican Party of Armenia" faction (69 MPs), "Prosperous Armenia" faction (37 MPs), "Armenian National Congress" faction (7 MPs), "Rule of Law" faction (6 MPs), "Armenian Revolutionary Federation" faction (5 MPs), and "Heritage" faction (5 MPs). 2 Deputies were not included in those factions.
The first session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fifth convocation was convened on May 31, 2012. Mr. Hovik Abrahamyan was elected President of the National Assembly, and Mr. E. Sharmazanov and Ms. H. Naghdalyan were elected Vice-Presidents. Twelve Chairs for the Standing Committees were also elected.
By the decree of the President of the Republic of Armenia, on April 13, 2014 Mr. Hovik Abrahamyan was appointed Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia. Mr. Galust Sahakyan was appointed President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on April 29, 2014.