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Articles

DUAL CITIZENSHIP IN ARMENIA

Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
02 March 2007 - ERAREN
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!á~°à="justify">According to official statistics a maximum of 3.1 million people reside in Armenia, however, it has been surmised that this figure is essentially around 2.5 million. Apart from this, it is maintained that those of Armenian descent residing in other countries equates to approximately 5 million people. 

x issue of dual citizenship has been subject to heated debate which revolves around the fact that the number of Armenians residing outside of Armenian borders is far greater than the number residing within the country.
Those in favor of dual citizenship are lead by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (the Dashnaktsutiun) Party. The Dashnaks who had de facto control over the governments of the first Armenian Republic throughout 1918-1920, later lead to the subversion of the Republic as a result of their hard-line policies. When Armenia re-established its independence in 1991 the Dashnaktsutiun Party became active again but due to its past failures it received a lukewarm reception and attained only %10 of the votes. However, the Party was closed in 1994 as a result of having opposed the government in power through illegal means.
Despite the standing of the Dashnaks within Armenia, they became the main political force behind the diaspora Armenians and have supported granting citizenship to the diaspora Armenians all along. The reason behind this has been the anticipation that the votes to be cast by those of which are to settle in Armenia would bolster the Dashnaks strength in the political sphere and that this would enable their fanatical nationalism to take root in Armenia.
The Ter Petrosian administration, which dissolved the Dashnaktsutiun Party, inserted an article in the Armenian Constitution which entered into force in 1995 precluding dual citizenship. Three years later, when Ter Petrosian stepped down due to the Karabagh conflict, Robert Kocharian who was elected in his place as President of the Republic, expressed how he favored the granting of dual citizenship to the Armenian diaspora. Fearful that they might gain political clout and rise to prominence within the Republic, Armenian politicians resisted this for a very long time. It was only in the year 2005 that the constitutional article under question could be amended. The law enacted in this regard was also delayed. The majority of Armenian parliamentarians strived to restrict the voting rights of the Armenian diaspora who were to be granted citizenship. However, as a result of  Kocharian’s intermeddling, a law was adopted on the 27th of February bestowing the Armenians to be granted citizenship with full rights apart from the right to be elected as President or Speaker of the House.
The fact that the 131 seat Armenian parliament could only produce 66 votes in favor of the above mentioned law and the fact that there were only 5 votes against it provides an accurate picture of the opposition present in the Armenian Parliament. Furthermore, the absence of almost half of the parliamentarians further portrays the degree of opposition present.

While dual citizenship is now possible, keeping Armenia’s economic situation in view, it is unlikely that many diaspora Armenians will apply to exercise this right. At this point the per capita income of Armenia is at 1,500 dollars. In contrast, Armenians living in foreign nations, foremost the United States, earn at least 1,500 dollars per month. According to this, the option of dual citizenship is more likely to be used by ultra nationalistic persons who have a Dashnak ideology and agenda. Whilst their numbers are few today it should be expected that they will become active in political circles in the future. Also it is possible that those Armenians that reside in poorer nations such as Iran and Syria may also want to become Armenian citizens. However this possibility is highly dependent on the state of the Armenian economy.
In sum, it is to be expected that the dual citizenship law newly adopted in Armenia, shall lead to a slight rise in the population of Armenia and shall further lead to the spread of fanatical nationalism.
In the final count, it should be noted that certain countries do not accept dual citizenship, while in others this is subject to certain conditions. According to the Turkish Law of Citizenship the adoption of another countries’ citizenship is contingent upon special permission and that in the absence of this permission, Turkish citizenship could be lost.

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