Armenia's quotas for ethnic minorities in parliament
Armenia’s ethnic minority MPs are elected by quotas
The official results of the June 20 elections were announced in Armenia. and representatives of ethnic minorities have also won seats in parliament. However, some of them consider the distribution of quotas unfair.
Based on material from the Caucasian Knot
The Central Election Commission of Armenia announced the final results of the early parliamentary elections on June 27: the Civil Contract party won 53.91% of the vote, Hayastan bloc – 21.9% of the vote, I Have the Honor bloc – 5.22%. On June 27, the CEC of Armenia distributed parliamentary mandates among the political forces that made it to the parliament – 71 mandates were received by the Civil Contract, 29 by Hayastan and seven by the I have the Honor bloc.
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Mandates for ethnic minorities
Ethnic minorities – representatives of the Russian, Yezidi, Kurdish and Assyrian communities – will also receive mandates under quotas.
According to the results of the 2011 census of Armenia, Armenians make up the majority of the country’s population – 98.1%. However, Armenia is also home to Yezidis, Russians, Kurds, Assyrians, Greeks, Ukrainians and Jews.
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Representatives of the largest ethnic groups in Armenia believe that parliamentary quotas should be distributed among ethnic minorities not equally, but based on the size of communities. In particular, this is the opinion of Rustam Bakoyan, MP from the Yezidi community.
Bakoyan entered parliament on the quota of the ruling Civil Contract party. One mandate in the People’s Assembly for their community -the largest among other communities of minorities, is not enough, he said. However, this mandate can become a serious resource for solving various problems, he told the Caucasian Knot correspondent.
The deputy said that in the last convocation he came up with two legislative projects, and both were approved. According to Bakoyan, he managed to ensure that national minorities received four days of unpaid leave during the year to take part in various national, cultural or religious events in their community.
“This enables representatives of minorities who work not to break away from their traditions”, he explained.
In addition, on his initiative, amendments were made to the law On Holidays and Memorable Dates, according to which Armenia will celebrate the Day of National Minorities on the first Saturday of October every year, Bakoyan said.
“Thus, additional attention will be paid to the traditions and problems of minority groups, Armenian society will learn more about the culture of the peoples living among them, and the representatives of these communities themselves will become even closer to their origins”, he said.
The Yezidis are the largest national community in Armenia. According to official data, over 35,000 thousand Yezidis live in the country and you can learn more about their community in Armenia here.
The Russian community is also represented in the National Assembly of Armenia by MP Aleksey Sandykov on the quotas of the Civil Contract party.
The main problems of the Russian community in Armenia are the lack of support for the Russian language, culture and Russian education, as well as the protection of the interests of the Russian community, he noted.
“Unlike other communities, the Russian language in Armenia retains its popularity and its worthy second place after the state Armenian language”, Sandykov told the Caucasian Knot correspondent.
Problems periodically arise with the provision of Russian literature to Russian schools, he said. “This issue is being resolved with our Russian colleagues”, Sandykov explained.
According to him, the issue of restoring the Russian Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in the village of Amrakits, Lori region, is topical.
“For the Russian Orthodox Church itself, the restoration of the church from the point of view of the needs of parishioners is not very interesting, since there are very few Russian parishioners of the Orthodox Church in the region. Therefore, this issue should be considered at the cultural, historical and tourist attractions levels. For this, we need a private sponsor who will undertake the restoration of the church which will require about two million dollars”, Sandykov said.
About 80% of the Russian community in Armenia are Molokans who mostly reside in the villages of Lermontovo and Fioletovo, he said. Russians also live in Yerevan, but given the fact that many are leaving because of social problems in the country, it is difficult to name the exact size of the community – this figure fluctuates between six and seven thousand people, and these statistics do not include Russian military personnel and their families, Sandykov noted.
The MP said that he did not quite agree with the procedure for distributing mandates to ethnic minorities according to quotas.
“For example, now the Assyrian mandate has gone to the opposition bloc. Based on my work experience, I believe that regardless of who is in power, ethnic minorities should maintain their political neutrality, and they should not be supporters of any party. If it is technically impossible, then it is desirable that they enter parliament according to the quotas of the ruling force since this gives more opportunities to resolve their issues with the ruling team and excludes the political component that interferes with the solution of problems”, Sandykov said.
Language and Culture – How Mandates Help Solve Problems
The deputy from the Assyrian community of Armenia, Arsen Mikhailov, who entered the parliament on the quota of the Hayastan bloc, told the Caucasian Knot correspondent that he had managed to resolve a number of issues for the Assyrian community in parliament.
For example, when the process of consolidation of communities was going on in Armenia, he managed to withdraw the Arzni community, where Assyrians live, from this program, thereby preserving it as a separate unit, Mikhailov said.
The main problems of the Assyrian community in Armenia lie in the spheres of education and culture, he said. “But these issues can be resolved in cooperation with the government. We receive government grants for various programs”, Mikhailov explained.
“If we compare this with the situation in neighboring countries, we can say that only in Armenia does the Assyrian community manage to preserve its identity. We have preserved our language, our culture, and this is all thanks to the state policy towards ethnic minorities”, he said.
In the schools of the communities where Assyrians live (Arzni, Dvin, Dimitrov, Nor Artages), the Assyrian language is studied from the first to the fourth grades, the deputy said. Assyrian language classes are also offered in Yerevan, at the Pushkin school, he noted. From the fifth to the 10th grades, students also study history and culture of Assyrians.
Representative of the Kurdish community, MP Knyaz Hasanov, who entered parliament under the Civil Contract quota, told Caucasian Knot that he manages to raise issues of his community in the People’s Assembly. They are mainly related to culture, education and everyday life, he noted. Hasanov said that he managed to get the publication of textbooks and financing for the Kurdish newspapers.
“We are also raising questions of an infrastructural nature. For example, in the villages of Sipan and Avshen, where Kurds live, there was a need to repair roads for about six kilometers. These roads have not been repaired since Soviet times, and they managed to do it last year”, Hasanov said.
Financial issues of students from the Kurdish community are also being resolved, he said.
“We manage to preserve our identity. In about ten villages where Kurds live the Kurdish language is taught in schools using Kurdish textbooks”, the deputy noted.