The Republic of Armenia plans to amend its constitution in order to create a new legislative upper house—a Senate—that would include representatives from the diaspora, according to a Jan. 30 announcement in Los Angeles by Hranush Hakobyan, Armenia’s diaspora minister.
This news spread like wildfire throughout the Armenian world, and the reaction was mixed. Pro-government circles welcomed the proposal with great enthusiasm, while opponents severely criticized it. In my view, both praise and criticism were premature, as the minister’s announcement contained few details about the proposed Senate.
Interestingly, despite Minister Hakobyan’s declaration about President Serge Sarkisian’s intent to establish a Senate, the president’s spokesman Armen Arzumanyan, cautioned that this is one of many such proposals deserving of serious consideration. He went on to explain that amending the constitution is a complicated and long process. A week later, Parliament Chairman Hovik Abrahamyan further downplayed the minister’s announcement, stating that it will not be considered until after next year’s parliamentary elections, given the legislative body’s crowded agenda.
At this early stage, one can only ask questions, because of the minister’s assertion that there would be extensive consultations in Armenia and the diaspora before any decision is taken on the structure and responsibilities of the proposed Senate.
Here are key questions that individuals, organizations, and government officials should consider before deciding to amend Armenia’s constitution and establishing a Senate:
- Would Armenia’s citizens feel comfortable about the presence of Diaspora Armenians in their legislature, or view them as foreign citizens, albeit Armenians, meddling in their domestic affairs?
- Should the Armenian government include hand-picked diaspora representatives in the Senate, would this be viewed as an attempt by Armenia’s officials to exercise undue influence over the diaspora?
- Instead of establishing a Senate, why can’t Diaspora Armenians be included in the existing parliament?
- What would be the Senate’s legislative mandate, and how would it be different from that of the existing parliament?
- Since the majority of Armenians live outside of Armenia, would the proposed Senate consist of many more diaspora representatives than those from Armenia?
- How would Senators be chosen? Would they be elected by the public or appointed by the government or major organizations? If elected, what should be the qualifications of voters and candidates, who sets the criteria, and who organizes the elections?
- In case the Senators are elected, what steps should be taken to ensure that there would be free and fair elections?
- Can diaspora Senators maintain their current citizenship, become dual citizens, or be forced to give up their foreign citizenship?
- Would diaspora members be obliged to move to Armenia to participate in year-round sessions, or would they come to Armenia for brief periods for meetings dealing only with pan-Armenian issues?
- Are there any plans to undertake a comparative study of countries with diaspora representatives in their legislatures?
- In order to maintain diaspora’s independence and Armenia’s sovereignty, would it not be better to create a separate diaspora structure in line with the process I proposed during last November’s USC conference? Armenian communities worldwide would elect representatives to a transnational assembly which would then select delegates from its ranks to serve in Armenia’s legislature.
- Was it mere coincidence that ARF leaders had publicly discussed the idea of creating a Senate that would include diaspora representatives, long before Minister Hakobyan’s recent announcement? Interestingly, the ARF promptly announced its support for this initiative, while the Heritage Party opposed it, and the Armenian National Congress, led by ex-President Levon Ter Petrosyan, called the proposal an “absurdity!”
The good news is that at long last the Armenian government has recognized the need to involve Diaspora Armenians in pan-Armenian decision-making processes and structures. However, before rushing to judgment, it would be wise to wait and see what exactly Armenia’s leaders have in mind in proposing diasporan representation in a new Senate. The final decision should be solely based on whether this or any other arrangement is in the best interest of Armenians, both in Armenia and the diaspora.
This is a great development and I agree that there are many questions about the latest development and Mr. Sassounians list highlights some of the important ones. There are also many more questions. But this is the beginning of the process. The Armenian government has acted very diplomatically. They have floated a trial balloon and are expecting reactions and ideas from both inside and outside Armenia. I have some questions as well. 1) What would be the selection process and how the fairness be protected? 2) Who would be eligible to run? 3) Who would be eligible to vote? 4) What kind of involvement would they have in the governing of the country? Etc..
There are many questions and all these items will have to be discussed and worked out. Personally I would like to see the upper house be more involved in Armenia’s foreign affairs than the domestic affairs. It should serve as an advisor to the lower house in domestic matters. It could also oversee the Armenian elections, ensure fair elections and certify the winner of the elections.
This will allow higher level of participation by diaspora Armenians in the country’s politics and affairs. It will promote a closer working relationship between people inside and outside Armnia. It will also defuse Turkish attempts to drive a wedge between the Diaspora Armenians and the RoA.
This sounds like a dream of all Americans – Representation without Taxation – we don’t want to pay taxes but we expect the Congress to vote in our interest.
When are we going to stop believing in fairy-tales?
We ask to return our lands but we expect others to do it for us.
We ask an aggressive NATO regime that serves the BIG OIL and the International Military-Industrial Complex to recognize Armenian Genocide while they are building a pipeline around Armenia and arming and training another aggressive NATO country that has been imposing an illegal blockade on Armenia for almost 20 years.
We are making monetary contributions to corrupt lobbiosi and politicians who are laughing at us.
We expect others to support us in our struggle just because we are such a good people when we know that this has never happened in the history of human kind.
What we need to do is to start paying a “diaspora” tax (or equivalent community service in Armenia) and then vote for diaspora delegates that would be responsible for using this money for the needs of diaspora – Armenian communities abroad and repatriation to Armenia. These who pay – vote. Without this it will be another blah-blah-blah forum.
I wrote at length this morning re above.It pulled the disappearing act,vanishing into thin air. I don´t know why?
The establishment of a s e n a t e -second higher chamber-in Armenia has been suggested by me several times over direct to RA,also to Diaspora press.Never published.
My suggestion does not involve Diaspora delegates in same.Usually ,in any country that has both s e n a t e and diaspora, has its country´s citizens elected to that high Chamber.
Reason why this was so declared, i.e. by Ministry of Diaspora ,is probably a mis-understanding,so to speak,as I had and am suggesting again and again .-That.-
Just as said Ministry was formed by repeated requests from Diaspora, 5 PERMANENT delegates, from our 5 main Diaspora(s),namely N. and s. Americas,European Union,Russian Federation and Middle East should be appointed by these to Ministry of Diaspora.These will intermingle, since each of them represents different culture,has different needs for each, has also behavorial differences and many such characteristics that can by and by getting to mingle w/each other smoothen out .Also, above all introduce to the Fatherland Ministry officials their stances.For it is quite obvious that by short one or two day visits-welcome indeed- by Ministre to the Diasporic countries issues very much important will not be resolved. Work has to be done on a day to day basis AND ON THE SPOT.
Apparently this suggestion of mine has prompted said Ministry to have above suggestion (for PERMANENT delegates in RA) thus resolved…
However, as mentioned above s e n a t e of a country has members from its citizens elected,not from citizens of other countries, even if country of origin of latter maybe similar to the country in question. But then controversy in this respect may as yet be continued, as indeed TODOS TENEMOS RAZON.We all have some reason..and if I know a bit about our characteristics,we all are-like in Fatherland- O´s but with a different denomination. I wish best for the Fatherland and diaspora.
Though I still see my post above re S E N A T E AWAITING MODERATION,I DO HOPE YOU AND OTHERS WILL UNDERSTAND THAT THIS S E N A T E SUGGESTION HAS BEEN MY BRAINCHILD SO TO SPEAK AND I HAVE PROOF THAT ON MANY A POST TO RA AND DIASPORA PRESS,ALSO PUBLISHED AND KEPT AT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN ARMENIA IT IS MINE-SO IS THE ARMENIAN MINDSET…..
BUT I WRITE THESE FEW LINES TO COMMEND ON YOUR ABOVE POST, WHICH IS TRUE TO THE LETTER, EACH LETTER..
FEW HERE HAVE POSTED ON A LEVEL AS YOURS–HOWEVER…
I BEG TO DIFFER TOTALLY AS TO YOUR LAST PARAGRAPH.IN THIS RESPECT PLEASSE READ MY ABOVE POST, IF IT SEES LIGHT OF DAY THAT IS.
MEANWHILE, MY THRUST FOR A S E N A T E IN RA IS THERE, ALSO MY SUGGESTIONS TO HAVE 5 DELEGATES FROM OUR MAIN 5 DIASPORIC CONTINENTS AS PERMANENT REP.S IN RA.INDEED THESE WITHA ONE YEAR TIMEFRAME PERIOD ,EITHER TO BE RE ELECTED BY THEIR RESPECTIVE AREAS AND/or NEW OTHERS TO REPLACE THEM.THE UPKEEP OF THESE -A PALTRY AMOUNT FRO EA CONTINENT ARMENIANS TO BE BORN BY LATTER .WE DON´T WAN T TO BURDEN FATHERLAND WITH THEIR UPKEEP.WE ONLY WISH THAT FATHERLAND ALLOW THESE TO BE ALONGSIDE MINISTRE OF DIASPORA AS LIAISONS SHALL WE SAY,NOT ASPIRING FOR ATORS BUT THERE TO WORK AND WORK HARD. I HAVE A LOT TO SAY AND I HAVE DECIDED THAT IF THIS LIKE POSTS OF MINE ARE PERMITTED TO APPEAR,THEN….THERE WILL BE NO HOPE FOR US ARMENIANS ..
HAMA HAIGAGANI SIRO
Ask the 6 million or more Armenians of the diaspora how many of which want to go, live, and fight for the nation. I bet we would not fill two giant jets. Oops maybe Sassounian and the other journalists and ANCA and A. Assembly members will go and become citizens and be permanent residents of Armenia. Go ahead, i bet if you take a census and ask how many will do what it takes.
This is an enormous, complex and intriguing topic. It’s a stretch, at this point, to call it a proposal since there is only a concept. At the core of this issue, is a question…. how do we define the relationship of the diaspora and Armenia? For that matter, what is the diaspora? We have a convevient term to describe it, but it is anything but a well integrated entity. Although we have several large umbrella groups internationaly, there is still a significant perception that our diaspora is fragmented. What is our role as Armenians of the diaspora when we state we must “support’ Armenia. Are we here to serve the needs of the motherland as defined by the Republic or do we have an expectation that we have a right to influence the direction of the country. Are we capable of”no strings attached service” or must we have power and influence to participate? How much do we have in common with our western values developed over the last 90 years verses the post-Soviet process in Armenia. How patient are we to nuture the evolution of democracy and the reduction of corruption? Who says democracy eliminates corruption?
I think this is an important concept because it may force us to confront and better define the relationship between the diaspora and Armenia. At the end of the day, it must serve the interests of Armenia(that’s a process in and of itself) and not some special interests of a segment of the diaspora. We must never forget that , unless we move to Armenia, our role is to support the vision of a vibrant Armenia.
Thank God the Armenian government has decided to include Diaspora voices in its decision making processes. If only they could decide to include the voices of Armenia’s citizens too.
It’s sad to see the Armenian government manipulate the Diaspora in such a way–although I’m not surprised, they’ve gotten real good at it since those “conferences” with Kocharyan. What I am surprised by is the fact that our community leaders, including the author of this article, allow and facilitate that manipulation.
Of course, leave it to the Diaspora-hating/Dashnak-killing/unpatriotic/quasi-Jew/[insert other asinine insult independent thinkers are called in our Diaspora] to ask the more important questions:
1-Why should Mgrditch Bedrossian from Detroit, Michigan have any legal and direct voice in a decision making body whose policies and actions have absolutely NO IMPACT on his kids, their lives, and the future of the country of which he is a citizen? Aside from the feelings of the citizens of Armenia, do Diaspora leaders like Mr. Sassounian believe the supposed body-electorate of the Diaspora is even well-informed enough to make responsible decisions?
2-Can such a relationship, where the risk and cost is shared exclusively by one the sides, even be functional? What if Mgrditch’s Senator makes a wrong decision? Who pays the consequences? How would THAT impact the Diaspora-Armenia relationship which Mr. Sassounian and the like claim to care so much about?
3-Would the constitutional “amendments” that are required for such a structure be forced on the people of Armenia in the same way the last “referendum” was held? Would Diaspora Armenians be given a voice in Armenia as a result of a process that is completely unfree and rigged?
4-What is to stand in the way of any type of Diaspora structure in Armenia from becoming another mechanism by which corrupt and negligent leaders in Armenia distract and distort the Diaspora?
This is another distraction the Diaspora has conjured up to perpetuate itself and fill in the vacuum its inferiority complex inevitably creates. Remember the big fight about “dual-citizenship” — YES, THAT’S WHAT WE NEEDED, THAT’S WHAT WOULD HAVE SAVED THE DAY! Remember what happened when we FINALLY got dual citizenship? Nothing. About 7 Armenians asked for it, and another 6 have talked about getting it.
Such a structure would largely be symbolic and advisory in nature, and thus a waste of our time. It would also be dominated by the current predictable politically organized groups; all of whom need no further representation–we know what they think, where they stand, often times, even before an issue arises.
Thank you Mr. Sassounian for not asking any of the tough questions, nor answering the simple ones.
TO ALL CONCERNED.
The coming onto the RA political scene of a MINISTRY of Diaspora is the result of latter´s repeated calls for same. Fact is during soviet times a similar entity called ¨¨Spyurki hed gaberi gomideh¨¨COMMITTEE for relations with Diaspora Existed.This cannot be overlooked or denied and they did whatever was in their capacity or PERMIGTTED todo.
This Ministry nowadays, has actually replaced or taken over of what the former did on a much more GRANDIOSE fashion. It lacks elements such as I have ¨suggestted¨above that of having a PERMANENT delegate ,at least from each of our 5 main Diaspora Concentration countries or if you wish from Australia as well as Africa and Far East.All some 7 such.later on to be from each of the Diaspora countries with substantial Diasporans that aspire to be Armenians and cooperate.
The Myth ,rather sudden decision to have Diasporans within a Second higher Chamber,namely the s e n a t e (my original suggestion to them,it is in the posts I have saved , as well as registered in the Intellectual propeerty Office ,Yerevan,Armenia) is rather a way not let the OTHER, I.E., MY ABOVE SUGGESTION take place .That of Diaspora country 5 or 7 permanent Delegates, co workers within that Ministry.Which would be more Logical indeed,since these ARE FROM ABROAD,citizens of other countries.
What is more there are many a candidate for being SENATORS WITHIN ARMENIA.Those for example who have been on the political scene there,EITHER MARGINALIZED AND/OR THEMSELVES l e a v i n g the scene because of ……..
This must stop.it is time that our dear brethren in Armenia LET THAT COUNTRY BE MUCH MORE OPEN AND DEMOCRATIC.Mr. Hairikian,-just an example- or many many such have the right to be elected to a future s e n a t e in Republic of Armenia than Mr, Mitch Johnsonian from Colorado or Jose Manuelian from B-Aires,Argentina.
I do trust some of my compatriots will overcome the non-co operativeness and realize that the Republic is in its infancy and needs to be nurtured with correct,logical and universally accepted NORMS.Not to invent the 5th wheel and advocate some erroneous idea overlooking advanced ,more experienced countries systems.
Indeed, 5th wheels-so to speak-may be invented and accepted if the majority of the public of a state accepts it.In short we NEED SOCIAL FORMATION BEFORE WE CAN ASPIRE to i n v e n t .This can be obtained working in ¨¨PROFESSIONAL COLLEAGUES ASSOCIATIONS¨ that I have been trumpeting for long…
More to above later..
Mr. Dumanian, I read your posting and it was hard to follow and did not make much sense. The way I read it, you have a lot of issues that you would like to cover and there just is not enough writing space in this forum to let you develop each topic. Please pick a single topic and elaborate, that will make it easier to follow. I am sure there would be other opportunities for you to write about the rest of the issues.
The greatest benefit to the citizens of Haiastan is for qualified diasporans to participate and bring their knowledge and voice in governing our fledgling nation. First of all, citizens of Haiastan would learn how democracies, true democracies (not a turkey democracy) know to lead their citizens, their nations honestly/patriotically. Too, of course, at times not so perfect, but the best our world has known thus far.
With such input from the civilized democracies, then, and only then shall the ingrained misdirected mentality of the vestiges of communism (i.e. Serge) be weaned and true patriotic young men and women come forth to govern our Armenian citizens who are worthy of honesty and truths in our government. Honesty lacking since der Bedrossian and all the misfits that followed until today’s Serge and cohorts who are still ‘learning on the job’ and yet to include ALL segments of the citizens of Haiastan such as honest ‘small farmers’ who have been feeding themselves, feeding all of Armenia! (Actually, has the agricultural minister initiated that which benefits himself and his ilk thus ‘eliminating the honest farmers’ excluding them from any ‘advances’ forthcoming for the agricultural minister and his cohorts’ goals)?? Manooshag
Fredrick, there was of course a lot to say; you should concentrate on those parts which you understood, or ask specific questions about what you did not.