The Republic of Armenia declared its sovereignty on August 23, 1990, and became an independent state a year later, on September 23, 1991. In October 1991, Levon Ter-Petrosian, who had been elected democratically as chairman of the Armenian Supreme Soviet under the Soviet system in 1990, was chosen president of the republic in a six-candidate election. As of early 1994, Armenia was a reasonably stable democratic state, although its party structure was fractious and its legislative branch ineffectual. Because no consensus could be reached on a new constitution, a standoff between parliament and the president remained unresolved in early 1994.
The 248 members of Armenia’s unicameral parliament (Geraguin khorhurt in Armenian, officially retaining the term “Supreme Soviet” from the communist era) are elected for five-year terms and meet for six months each year. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers, which together constitute the executive branch of the government, are chosen from parliament. Although half the members of parliament (124) must be present for a quorum, a majority of the votes of the entire body (125) is needed to pass laws. In the early 1990s, because more than 160 members were rarely present and the ruling party did not have a majority in the body, the parliament was proving unable to act decisively on major legislative issues. Moreover, a two-thirds majority of the parliament (165) is needed to override a presidential veto. In the absence of a constitution, however, the parliament has issued laws regulating the relations and powers of the branches of government.
The Presidium, the parliament’s executive body, administers parliament when it is not in session. The Presidium is made up of the president of the republic (whose title is also chairman of parliament), two deputies, the secretary of the parliament, and the twelve chairmen of permanent parliamentary committees. Often laws are initiated by the president of the republic, sent to the Presidium for review, and then passed on to appropriate committees before being reviewed and voted upon by the whole parliament. (Besides permanent committees, the parliament can create temporary committees to deal with specific issues.)
Once parliament passes a law, the president of the republic, who also may participate in parliamentary debates, must sign or veto within two weeks. In early 1994, parliament had not yet passed legislation replacing Soviet-era laws in several major areas: criminal and civil codes, administrative violations, marriage and family, labor rights and practices, land tenure, and housing.
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