Ashot Ghoulyan’s interview to the Andin Journal on Parliament’s activities
1. Mr. Ghoulyan, with the inaguaration ceremony of the Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan at the special sitting of the National Assmbly on September 7 and formation of the new government, the first stage of the constitutional changes can be considered as completed.
The Constitution provides that a process of legislative changes should begin in the near future; the Parliament also has the authority to appoint officials in several state positions. In political sense, everything seems predictable, as three parliamentary factions supported President Sahakyan and voted for him. Aren't there concerns related to the huge volume of legislative work, and will you manage to make all the changes within the set timeframe?
I think there may be concerns in any case, however, we shouldn't have problems in regard to compliance with the scheduling and implementation deadlines. Three years is a sufficient period, and we will try to complete the large-scale work on introducing legislative changes.
We already have a list of those laws: they are around eighty draft laws and some preparatory work is already underway. All the legal acts that should be brought into compliance with the Constitution will be taken into examination by the political forces in the near future, a working program will be gradually formed and a concrete timeframe for discussing and adopting each law will be clarified. The NA Standing Committees have an important task to do, since the specialized observations of draft laws is carried out in the corresponding committees.
There is a huge work to do but we clearly realize the scope of work, the stages of implementation and our resources. The peculiarity of the modern parliamentarism is that part of the legislative work is on a professional basis which implies a high level of preparedness of specialists involved in bringing to life the political visions and ideas of MPs.
Taking into account the fact that the basic law of the country defines the framework of legal regulation, it remains only to correctly and timely direct the process of bringing the legislation into compliance with the Constitution. The readiness of the MPs of incumbent convocation’s National Assembly and the professionalism of the apparatus allows to be sure that this task will be carried out with good quality.
2. The National Assembly operates on a permanent basis but plenary sittings are convened once a month. Is the Parliament able to give legislative solutions to all problems regarding state functioning of the Republic by convening a plenary sitting once in a month?
One plenary sitting per month is a minimum that is defined by the law ''On Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly''. In case of legislative initiatives we are free in our decisions, and it often happens that the plenary sitting is convened more than once. For example, in December, when we review the state budget, we convene a plenary sitting almost weekly. Taking into consideration the importance of the forthcoming large-scale work, I believe the National Assembly will convene plenary sitting more often.
3. I would like you to touch upon also the issue of how the National Assembly carries out its role of a political platform. Does the new Constitution provide a wide opportunity to address different issues? What is envisaged in this direction in the near future?
I think the role of the parliament as a political platform was felt before. In my opinion, the new Constitution opens up even greater opportunities for the NA political forces. There were myriad of active discussions in the National Assembly of Artsakh: in the past years we had hearings on the process of the settlement of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict, meetings in different formats. Given the political picture of the incumbent parliament, activities in this direction are also planned in the future.
In modern parliaments, the demand for a political platform is growing but one should not ignore also the fact that political processes are not only driven from the parliamentary tribunes. Making statements at the NA sittings is not enough to emphasize political role. The political position is manifested through many channels - hearings, discussions, the procedure of questions-answers with the government, the use of representative and oversight functions and, most importantly, the loyalty to the values declared in everyday life.
4. Although Artsakh is a non-recognized country, it has traditions of interparliamentary ties and parliamentary diplomacy. I would like to ask you to tell about it in detail and also to speak about future projects.
In our case, the establishment of interparliamentary relations is connected with formal obstacles due to the unrecognized status of the country.
The main platform of interparliamentary relations for Artsakh as the first and most important institutional system of interaction is the interparliamentary commission on the cooperation with the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia, formed in the early 1990s. It operates in a full-fledged format and through which the Artsakh Republic National Assembly uses all the opportunities of the Armenian parliament, concerning mediated parliamentary contacts and the exchange of international experience in the legislative field.
Regarding our cooperation with the parliaments of other countries we can mention the Circles of Friendship with Lithuania and France, operating since 2013 involving former and current MPs and intellectuals of those countries.
In 2014, such a friendship group was created in the European Parliament, and more than a dozen MEPs joined it.
Indeed, there are some projects (and I find them quite realistic) regarding the intention of establishing a cooperation with different countries and giving them practical format. Taking into consideration the unpublicity of the preparatory work, I cannot go into details.
5. In 2020, concurrent parliamentary and presidential elections will be held in Artsakh. It is a pure Artsakh phenomenon; no such experience exists in any of the post-Soviet countries. Why was such a decision taken and how do you imagine the implementation of that constitutional requirement?
During the debates on the concept of the constitutional reforms, many models were considered and the choice fell precisely on this option, according to which in 2020 elections of the President and to the Parliament will be held concurrently, on the same day, in the same year. Firstly, it will bring some novelty and interest onto our political life, and secondly, theoretically and practically in countries with a small territory and a small population frequent elections keep the population in the permanent political tension which negatively effects the normal public relations and economic activity
Having preferred this model, we mainly considered the peculiarities of the presidential system of governance fixed in the Constitution, especially, the fact that the status of the head of state cannot be strong without proper political support in the parliament. Otherwise, we will always have an environment of political contradictions and conflicts which, under the current regional and geopolitical challenges, putting it mildly, can have undesirable consequences for Artsakh. The nuances of the new form of government dictate also which electoral system we need.
6. We have information that changes will occur in the system of local self-government as well. If it is not secret, what is it about?
Of course, there is no secret, especially since we plan to adopt the concept of the reforms in the system of local self-government through public discussions. I think, the discussions will allow collecting opinions and proposals of local self-government bodies. Although there were discussions on different models, the final conclusions will be done after having the generalized picture of all options. One thing is certain that the current system of local self-government system has many shortcomings and it needs reforms.
The Republic of Artsakh was the first in the South Caucasus to hold municipal elections and over the years we had both successes and omissions. Considering these facts, we came to the conclusion that some conceptual reforms should be done in this system. Being located in a turbulent region, under the constant threat of war, we need a strong and centralized governing system, one of the main functions thereof is the rapid mobilization and concentration of resources. Considering this and a number of other circumstances, we must find an acceptable option that will satisfy the current and future requirements.
7. And the last question, purely personal one. You are one of the politicians of Artsakh with the longest experience and for the third time you are the head of the National Assembly. What is the pledge of Ashot Ghoulyan’s success?
In my political activities, I never looked for secrets of success and never thought about it, because I had no occasion to take a break and look back.
Me and many of my colleagues, like every citizen of Artsakh, tried to be useful to the establishment and strengthening of Artsakh as an independent state to the best of their abilities. In my case, I would say that I simply did not shirk responsibility, and if it matched to my inner set of values I carried out the work with enthusiasm and great devotion, always feeling the trust of the people, that is the greatest value for me.
The talk conducted by Tatev Atanesyan