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Kanonagirk Hayots (Book of Rules)

In Armenian history, national or secular assemblies were convened even in ancient times. In Armenia there were convened national assemblies from time to time, of course not as we know today. They were convened for adopting decisions on serious and decisive issues faced by the nation, as well as aiming to adopt rules regulating social relations. Thus the convened assembly of alderman, ministers and clergymen in Artashat, in 449, rejected an edict obliging Zoroastrianism to the Christian subjects of Hazkert B.

After the breakdown of Arshakunyats’s wealth in 428, the Armenian Church tried to join the centrifugal forces of the ministers and act as a guarantee of Armenian unity. The secular assembly was replaced by a church assembly headed over by the Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians. In the assemblies, which took place in Dvin (506, 554, 609, 645, 702,) religious issues were debated resulting in the adoption of hundreds of rules. The Armenian Church, due to circumstances was obliged to be the head of the ministerial power and legislation. Hence the Armenian legislation was mainly presented with 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 1332 specific rules relating to a variety of issues.

The “Kanonagirk Hayots” (Book of Rules) was used as a source in medieval law pillars, Mkhitar Gosh’s and Smbat Sparapet’s Datastanagirqs and was enriched due to them.

This is of course, very far from essential parliamentarianism, which is considered to be permanently processing representative legislator elected by people, but it includes its primary components, the alderman, deciding the people’s destiny, debating issues and adopted by voting critical decisions and rules for the nation and organizing constituent activity and set up relations according to them.

The “Kanonagirk Hayots” was widely used in Armenia and in Armenian colonies until the twenties of the 20th century.

“Armenian Constitution”

In Armenian history the concept of parliamentary governance was born at the end of 18th century. SH. Shahamiryan in the work “Vorogayt Pararts” (1773, Madras) for the first time formulated the main provisions on constitutional republic and parliamentary order.

In the extensive preface he condemns feudal-monarchical orders, substantiates the liberating ways from Turkish- Persian despotism and established principles of democratic orders.

The title of the second book of “Vorogayt Parats” is “Nshavak,” which is applied with the meanings of “order” and “constitution,” and is a synonym to the name of “Armenian Constitution.”

The latter is a design of constitution (521 articles) and presents the social-state structure, the establishment order of government bodies and their authorities, rights and responsibilities of the citizens, organization of economy, education, armed forces and other issues of future independent Armenia. Shahamiryan’s work is one of the unique achievements of social-legal history, where the presented concepts, besides being the results of theoretical deep generalizations, are also cornerstone values of international constitutional developments.

Addressing the authority of the people, rule of law, representative democracy, separation of the authority branches of government, social protection, constitutional justice and many other constitutional principles, for the first time in Armenian history, the complete and regulated system of the state (constitutional) norms of rights is presented, not only generalizing the Armenian and world-wide social idea achievements but also giving birth to a new state thinking. The author certainly was well aware of democratic principles of state governance of Europe, in particular of Great Britain.

The fruits of “the trees of rights and justice” can become a base of a devout line of action only of “fair Governments,” seeking the happiness of an individual and society in justice and legality, having a starting point which demands that citizens “conduct their lives through law and justice.” This is the greatest precept of the author of “Vorogayt Parats.”

“National Constitution”

The national constitution was the statute related 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 entitled “Statute of Armenian Nation.” The principles of the Belgian Constitution are the basis of the document and it carries the influence of 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 will isolate the Armenians in national religious circles, keeping them away from state political issues, and in Europe will raise the prestige of Turkey as a legal-democratic and Europeanizing country.

The original constitution was Armenian, however the one considered official, was the ratified Turkish text. The national constitution was comprised of 150 articles (enshrined 99.) The items essential for the community were reduced. The number of the members of the national general assembly was reduced from 400 to 140, mainly on account of the representatives of the province.

National Assembly (legislative body,) National Central Administration (executive body,) National Central Assembly (spiritual affairs) and Political Assembly (secular affairs) were set up for conducting the inner affairs of Western Armenians. Those bodies were representative bodies. All men of 25 had the right to vote and those over 30 could be elected. Closed, secret vote elections were held, by the majority of votes.

In Western life, particular in Turkey the national constitution was a new phenomenon, though it was more statute than a constitution. There could not be a real constitution under the conditions of sultan law and order. That constitution did not contain any serious guarantee for either collective or personal rights of separate persons and as it was found out later there was no guarantee for the life and existence of the Armenian nation.

Even with its shortcomings the national constitution was a remarkable historical phenomenon. Its existence was very short lived in Turkey. With very tiny amendments it was processed till 1896 then was forbidden by the order of Abdul Hamid II, then again was patented in 1908, and finally abolished in 1915.

In Eastern Armenia (1828 after joining Russia) a national general assembly was founded, the functions of which were defined by the “Polozheniye” statute, enshrined by Nikolay I on March 11, 1836. His main authority was the choice of the Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians.

The Legislative Body of the First Republic of Armenia

The parliament of the first Republic of Armenia, declared on May 28 1918, was convened on August 1. A government was established, mainly from Dashnaktsakans. H. Kajaznuni was appointed as 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 one chambered and had standing committees and a council of elders. The Government of the Republic was accountable to the legislative body - parliament. The latter, during its existence had established four staffs of the Government - headed over by the Prime Ministers, H. Kajaznuni, Alexander Khatisyan, Hamo Ohanjanyan and Simon Vratsyan. The parliament was governed by A. Sahakyan (01.08. 1918. - 01.08 1919,) A. Aharonyan(01.08.1919-04.11.1920,) and H. Kajaznuni(04.11.1920-02.12.1920.) Four political factions were functioning in the people principles formulated parliament - Armenian Revolutionary Federation(ARF), Social -Democratic Hnchakyan Party(SDP), Social Revolutionaries and People’s Party of Armenian, which formed parliamentary factions. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation was a governing 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 power of law related to the inner and foreign policy of the Republic. Notable are the legislative steps made related to many big or small but essential issues such as declaring Armenian as a state language, establishing a State University, schools, libraries, museums, increasing salaries of workers and pensioners, 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 H. Ohanjanyan resigned. The very same day a new Dashnaktsakan Government was founded, headed by S. Vratsyan. On November 30, RSFSR Plenipotentiary Representative to Armenia, 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 sealed between RSFSR and the Republic of Armenia, according to which Armenia was stated as a Socialist Republic.

The Supreme Council of the Second Republic of Armenia

Soviet orders were established in Armenia on November 29, 1920. During those orders three constitutions - 1924, 1937 and 1978 were adopted. The Supreme Body of the State Authority of the second Republic of Armenia was the Supreme Council of the ASSR (Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic,) beginning from 1938 and before it -Congress of Councils. The Armenian SSR Constitution defined the authorities of the Supreme Council of the ASSR. The Supreme Council of the ASSR was competent to solve, by the USSR and ASSR constitution, all the issues, reserved for the ASSR authority. It was elected for a five year term and was one chambered and was comprised of 340 Parliament Members who were elected by electoral districts, having equal population. The activity order of the ASSR Supreme Council and its bodies was defined by the rules of the procedures of the ASSR Supreme Council and ASSR other laws. The ASSR Supreme Council appointed the president of the ASSR Ministers Council. By his presentation the staff of the Ministers Council was enshrined, which in turn was authorized to form and liquidate the ASSR Ministries and the State Committees, elected the Supreme Court, approved the ASSR economic and social development state plans and the ASSR State Budget.

The 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 constantly functioning body of the ASSR Supreme Council was its presidency, which, during the terms, between the sessions was exercising the functions of the supreme body of the state authority. The President of the ASSR Supreme Council presided over the ASSR Supreme Council presidency. The presidents of the ASSR Supreme Council authority were M. P. Papyan (1938-1954,) Sh. M. Arushanyan (1954-1963,) N. Kh. Harutyunyan (1963-1975,) B. Sarkisov (1975-1985) and H.M. Voskanyan (1985-1990.)

The ASSR (Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic) Supreme Council on February 13, 1990 adopted a resolution on prolongation of the government authorities, which were scheduled to expire on February 24, 1990. They extended the rule of the Parliament Members of the ASSR Supreme Council of the eleventh convocation through May 20. 1990.

The Supreme Council of Armenia of the first Convocation

On the threshold of freedom the Supreme Council of Armenia of the first convocation was formed in 1990, by the majority electoral order (260 Parliament Members,) through two stages on May 20 and June 3. During that time Armenia was yet a soviet Republic. In the new Parliament which began to function from July 20, were presented two political forces - the Communist Party and Hayots Hamazgayin Sharzhum(Armenian Pan-National Movement)(ANM). Later in the Parliament were formulated the ANM, HRAK (Ramkavar Azatakan /liberal/ Party of Armenia,) ARF (Armenian Revolutionary Federation,) ADP (Agrarian democratic Party) and CPA factions. In the Supreme Council were created the “Hanrapetutyun”(Republic) (38 Parliament Members,) “Artsakh” (11 Parliament Members,) “Liberal Democrats” (10 Parliament Members) and the “Azgayin Arajadimutyun” (National Progress) (10 Parliament Members,) parliamentary groups. The ARF (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) faction was changed to parliamentary group (12 Parliament Members.)

On August 4, 1990, Levon Ter Petrosyan was elected as president of the Supreme Council of SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) of Armenia, and on August 6 deputy presidents were elected with Babken Ararktsyan as a first deputy president and Gagik Harutyunyan as deputy president.

On September 17, 1990 in the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia were created the “Artsakhi Kanch” (Call of Artsakh) (26 Parliament Members) and “Azgaynakan” (31 Parliament Members) and on March 6, 1991 “Communist” (25 Parliament Members) and “Hanrapetutyun” (21 Parliament Members) parliamentary groups. On November 28, 1991 “Azgayin Zhoghovrdavarner” (National Democrats) parliamentary group (10 Parliament Members) 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 ratification process 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 ASSR (Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic) decided to rename the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic into 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 coming out from the Structure of the USSR.”

On June 25, 1991 the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia decided to set the term for the election of the President 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, on coming out from the Structure of the USSR, the Republic of Armenia was declared an independent state.

On October 16, 1991, Levon Ter Petrosyan was elected the first President of the Republic of Armenia and Gagik Harutyunyan was elected as Vice President. On November 11 a special session of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia was convened dedicated to the event of swear of the solemn oath of the President of the Republic of Armenia. On December 24, 1991 Babken Ararktsyan was elected as President of the Supreme Council.

The Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia began its work on July 20. 1990 and completed on May 15, 1995. 1169 decisions and 185 laws were adopted during that term, 104 of which were “basic” laws and 81 on making amendments and addenda to the laws in function. International 148 treaties were ratified.

On July 5. 1995 the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia was adopted.

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the first Convocation

On July 5. 1995 the elections (190 parliament Members - 150 majoritarian and 40 proportional electoral order) of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the first convocation were held. Five parties overcame the barrier of the 5 %, defined by law. The seats were distributed the following way: “Republic” unity 50% (20 Parliament Members,) “Shamiram” 20% (8 Parliament Members,) CPA 15 % (6 Parliament Members,) NDU 7,5%(3 Parliament Members,) and NIU 7,5% (3 Parliament Members.) Also the “Amendments” parliamentary group (31 Parliament Members) was created in the National Assembly. 21 Parliament Members were not included in any structure of faction or parliamentary group. Later the parliamentary group “Yerkrapah” (17 Parliament Members) was created. Babken Ararktsyan was elected the President of the National Assembly. In 1998, at the beginning of February, an authority 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 authority of the National Assembly. 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. There were held 9 regular, 12 extraordinary sessions, 64 regular, 14 extraordinary and 2 special sittings. The National Assembly of the first convocation adopted 302 laws, 144 of which are “main” laws, and 158 on making amendments and addenda to the laws in function. 154 International treaties were ratified, 658 decisions were adopted, 331 of which were normative, 327 record decisions.

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the Second Convocation

On May 30, 1999, the elections (131 Parliament Members: 75 majoritarian and 56 proportional electoral order) 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 %, defined by the law. The seats were distributed the following way: - “Miasnutyun” (Unity) alliance 41.69% (29 Parliament Members,) CPA 12,09% (8 Parliament Members,) “Law and Unity” alliance 7,96% (6 Parliament Members,) ARF 7,86% (5 Parliament Members,) “Rule of Law” faction 5,28% (4 Parliament Members.)

From the 129 Parliament Members, 76 were partisan and 53 non partisan (not belonging to any party.)

According to party, the form of the Parliament Members was as follows :

RPA - 24 Parliament Members
ADP - 8 Parliament Members
ARF - 8 Parliament Members
CPA - 7 Parliament Members
“Rule of Law” - 7 Parliament Members
PDP - 6 Parliament Members
NDU - 4 Parliament Members
“National Unity” - 3 Parliament Members
“Republic” - 2 Parliament Members
CRU - 2 Parliament Members
NDA - 1 Parliament Member
NDP - 1 Parliament Member
“Mission” - 1 Parliament Member
Scientific Industrial and Civil Union - 1 Parliament Member
ANM - 1 Parliament Member

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. Karen Demirchyan was elected the President of the National Assembly and Albert Bazeyan and Ruben Miroyan were elected deputies.

After A. Bazeyan was elected mayor on September 13, 1990, 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. Karen Demirchyan, President of the National Assembly, Vazgen Sargsyan, Prime Minister, Yuri Bakhshyan and Ruben Miroyan, Vice Presidents of the National Assembly, Mikayel Kotanyan, Henrik Abrahamyan, Armenak Armenakyan, Parliament Members and 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, new authority of the National Assembly was elected. Armen Khachatryan was elected President of the National Assembly, and Tigran Torosyan and Gagik Aslanyan were elected Vice Presidents of the National Assembly.

Six Parliamentary factions and three parliamentary groups were created in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the second convocation.

Parliamentary factions were as follows: “Unity” (created on 10.06, 1999, 46 Parliament Members,) “Communist Party of Armenia” (11.06. 1999, 8 Parliament Members,) “Armenian Revolutionary Federation” (11.06. 1999, 8 Parliament Members,) “Rights and Unity” (11.06.1999, 5 Parliament Members,) “Rule of Law” (10.06.1999, 4 Parliament Members,) and the parliamentary groups were: “Agrarian-Industrial People’s Unity” (23.07.2001, 11 Parliament Members,” before - “Stability” /10.06, 1999,/) “Armenia” (16.05. 2000, 12 Parliament Members) and “People’s Deputy” (16.04.2001, 16 Parliament Members.)

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the second convocation began its work on June 10, 1999 and completed on May 14, 2003. Nine regular, 22 extraordinary sessions, and 1 special sitting. The National Assembly adopted 543 laws, 170 of which were “main” laws, and 373 on making amendments and addenda to the functioning laws. 243 international treaties were ratified. 1290 decisions were adopted, 342 of which were normative decisions and 948 were record decisions.

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the Third Convocation

The elections (131 Parliament Members: 75 proportional and 56 majoritarian electoral order) of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the third convocation were held on May 25, 2003. According to the results of the elections six parties and an alliance overcame the barrier of the 5 %, defined by the law through the following proportion. Armenian Republican Party 23,66% (23 Parliament Members,) “Justice” alliance 13,71% (14 Parliament Members,) “Rule of Law” party 12,60% (12 Parliament Members,) Armenian Revolutionary Federation 11,45% (11 Parliament Members,) “National Unity” 8,91% (9 Parliament Members,) United Labour Party 5,67% (6 Parliament Members.)

On June 12, 2003, the first session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the third convocation was convened. Artur Baghdasaryan was elected the President of the National Assembly, and Tigran Torosyan and Vahan Hovhannisyan were elected Vice Presidents. On May 22, 2006 Artur Bagdasaryan submitted a resignation. On June 1 Tigran Torosyan was elected the President of the National Assembly.

Six factions were created in the National Assembly: “Armenian Republican Party” (13.06.2003, 40 Parliament Members,) “Rule of Law” (13.06.2003, 20 Parliament Members,) “Justice” (13.06.2003, 14 Parliament Members,) “Armenian Revolutionary Federation” (13.06.2003, 11 Parliament Members,) “National Unity” (13.06.2003, 8 Parliament Members,) “United Labour Party” (13.06.2003, 6 Parliament Members,) and a parliamentary group “People’s Parliament Member” (13.06.2003, 16 Parliament Members.) Fourteen Parliament Members were not included in the faction and 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 was convened on April 9 2007. Nine regular, 11 extraordinary sessions and 25 three-day sittings, 23 four-day sittings and 10 extraordinary sittings were convened.

During the third convocation 980 laws were adopted, 152 of which were “main” laws and 828 on making amendments and addenda to functioning laws. The authors of the adopted 89 laws were the Parliament Members, the authors of the other 875 were of the Government of the Republic of Armenia and the 16 laws were developed jointly.

1400 decisions were adopted 333 of which were normative decisions and 1067 were record decisions. 256 international treaties were ratified.

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the Fourth Convocation

On May 25. 2007 the elections (131 Parliament Members: 90 proportional and 41 majoritarian electoral order) 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 order 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.

June 7, 2007 Mr. Tigran Torosyan was elected President of the National Assembly, 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 Karapetyanon 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 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 as President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, and Mr. E. Sharmazanov was elected as Vice-President.

Five parliamentary factions were created in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fourth convocation: "Republican Party of Armenia" (64 Parliament Members,) "Prosperous Armenia" (25 Parliament Members,) "Armenian Revolutionary Federation" (16 Parliament Members,) "Rule of Law" (8 Parliament Members,) "Heritage" (7 Parliament Members.) These factions were created 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 1410 laws, 94 of which are "Mother" laws, and 1316 are amendments and addenda to laws already in function. The Deputies of the National Assembly are the authors of 207 adopted laws, and the Government of the Republic of Armenia is the author of 1203 laws.

1574 decisions were adopted, of which 329 are normative and 1245 are local.

214 international treaties were ratified.

The National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the Fifth Convocation

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 created in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the fifth convocation: "Republican Party of Armenia" faction (69 Parliament Members,) "Prosperous Armenia" faction (37 Parliament Members,) "Armenian National Congress" faction (7 Parliament Member,) "Rule of Law" faction (6 Parliament Members,) "Armenian Revolutionary Federation" faction (5 Parliament Members,) "Heritage" faction (5 Parliament Members.) 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, Mr. E. Sharmazanov and Ms. H. Naghdalyan were elected Vice-Presidents. 12 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.
 



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