Parliament Passes Bill On Property Confiscation In Second Reading

By Astghik Bedevian

Radio Liberty, Czech Rep.
Nov 15 2006

The Armenian parliament on Monday adopted in the second reading a
controversial bill that upholds the government’s powers to confiscate
real property and give it to private developers by citing ‘state and
public needs’.

The government-proposed legislation was passed with 67 votes to none,
with only three abstentions.

The draft law is supposed to regulate continuing demolitions of
old parts of central Yerevan that has been the scene of a massive
redevelopment in recent years. They have sparked angry protests by
scores of people who have been evicted from their now demolished
homes and claim to have not been properly compensated by the state.

The Armenian constitution stipulates that private property can
be taken away by the state "only in exceptional cases involving
overriding public interests, in a manner defined by law, and with
a prior commensurate compensation." However, the process has so far
been regulated only by government directives. Armenia’s Constitutional
Court effectively declared it illegal in April, but stopped short of
ordering the authorities to return the increasingly expensive land
to their former owners.

As the lawmakers took the vote several dozen residents evicted from
their homes gathered near the National Assembly building to show
their attitude. Their protest passed in heavy police presence. Police
surrounded demonstrators not to allow them to approach passing

"We have only one wish – to meet deputies elected by people and talk
to them. After all, we have elected them," one protestor said.

Opposition deputies who have consistently opposed the passage of the
bill were welcomed with applause. Those who voted for the bill drew
a different reaction, with people scanning: "Shame on you!"

Many pro-government deputies decided to enter the parliament from the
backdoor. Some of them were accompanied by eight or nine bodyguards.

Among the parties that opted out of the vote today were Orinats
Yerkir, the Artarutyun alliance and National Unity. The parties and
groups that upheld the legislation included the Republican Party of
Armenia, the United Labor Party, the People’s Deputy parliamentary
group and businessmen’s groups. The Dashnak votes proved decisive
in the vote. All of the party’s deputies had abstained during the
previous vote on the bill. Only three of them did so this time around.

The bill is still to pass a third reading and is already on the agenda
of the four-day session.

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