Opposition in Armenia Lambastes Government's Early Military Discharge Bill
An Armenian Ministry of Defense proposal to allow citizens conscripted for mandatory military service to pay 24 million drams (US$60,000) and be discharged several months early has met with strong reactions just a day after it was announced.
The proposal, placed on the E-draft.am website for public comment, has mostly received positive feedback. The political opposition has described the proposal as a “legalization of corruption”.
The money, according to the ministry, would be used to increase the salaries of contract servicemen in a bid to improve living conditions.
Those opposing the proposal say it discriminates against those unable to pay the money and would create a social divide in the country.
Military service in Armenia is mandatory for male citizens aged 18 to 27 and lasts two years. Conscripts are drafted twice a year pursuant to the government's decision.
Former Armenian Minister of Justice Gevorg Danielyan says the proposal contradicts the country’s constitution that defines military service as a legal duty of all citizens.
In January, Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said Armenia will have a professional army and claimed that his government is implementing systematic reforms designed to reevaluate the performance of the army and will increase funding to improve the social and living conditions of servicemen.
The political opposition does not believe the money will go to pay contract soldiers and sees the proposal as yet another “cosmetic move” on the part of the government to prove it is committed to reforming the military.
The opposition argues the Pashinyan administration, by floating such a proposal, is avoiding the hard work needed to root out corruption within the military and to fix several issues that prompt many facing conscription to either leave the country or change citizenship.
“The government is trying to bypass the deep-seated reasons for this and find current solutions that do not derive from the interest of the state, but a sense of political expediency,” says With Honor parliamentary faction secretary Tigran Abrahamyan.