by Ashot Safaryan
On March 14, the members of "I'm Against" initiative met with the representatuives of the 4 non-coalition forces of the Armenian Parliament to discuss issues related to the March 22 rally against the compulsory accumulative pension system.
The meeting was behind the closed doors. Vartan Oskanyan and Stepan Margaryan represented the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), Levon Zurabyan represented the Armenian National Congress Party (ANC), Ruben Hakobyan and Tevan Poghosyan - the Heritage Party, and Artsvik Minasyan and Armen Rustamyan - the ARF Dashnaktsutyun Party (ARFD).
Following the meeting, Gevorg Gorgisyan, a representative of the civic initiative, told journalists that the 4 parliamentary groups will take part in the rally. "We continue our fight in the civil sector, and the political forces can support us or not. Our cooperation has a specific goal - to cancel the compulsory component of the accumulative pension system", he said. Activist David Manukyan, in turn, said that the parliamentary groups represent the citizens' interests in the legislative structure and that the protest can be expressed not only in the streets but also on the political platform. The activists stressed that their further actions will depend on the Constitutional Court's March 28 decision.
To recall, the voluntary accumulative pension system was introduced in Armenia on Jan 1 2011. The system became compulsory on Jan 1 2014. According to the law the minimal pension in the country will be equal to the minimum wage, while the basic pension will total 150% of the minimum wage. The compulsory accumulative pension system covers the citizens born after Jan 1 1974 (the citizens below 40). Starting Jan 1 2014, 5% of their salaries are transferred to their personal accumulative accounts. The government transfers a similar amount (but no more than 25,000 drams). People are displeased not only with the mandatory component of the system but also with the absurd situation following the Constitutional Court's decision of January 24 that suspended some provisions of the Law on the Accumulative Pension until the Court considers its constitutionality on Mar 28 2014. The Court suspended Article 76 stipulating responsibility for refusing to make compulsory pension contributions or failing to do in time and Paragraph 3 of Article 86 saying that the employees covered by the system should choose a pension fund. Nevertheless, the Finance Ministry of Armenia urges employers to calculate and make accumulative pension payments and employees to choose a pension fund and a manager for it. The picketers call the given approach a robbery.