THE LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT SYSTEM
After the adoption of the Constitution of the RA (5 June, 1995) the system of local self-government was established in parallel with the establishment of the state government in public administration of the RA.
Implementation of local self-government in the RA is regulated by the Constitution of the RA and its Articles 104-110 of the Chapter 7, which directly define the issues of local self-government, by the RA Law “On Local Self-Government”, which is based on European Charter of Local Self-Government, by other laws and legal acts. Armenia ratified European Charter of Local Self-Government in 2002.
The local self-government is the right and power of the community to resolve on its own responsibility issues of local significance aimed at the welfare of the inhabitants in accordance with the Constitution of the RA and the RA Law “On Local Self-Government”.
Local self-government bodies consist of a Head of the Community and Community Council, who are selected for 4 years by secret ballot on the basis of universal, equal, direct suffrage in accordance with the procedure defined by the law. The number of members of the Community Council depends on the population number and varies between 5 and 15. The first elections in the RA were held on 10 November, 1996 according to the RA Law “On Elections of Local Self-Government Bodies”. The second elections took place on 24 October, 1999 in accordance with the RA Electoral Code, which was adopted in 17 February, 1999. The next elections took place correspondingly on 20 October, 2002 and in autumn of 2005. Powers of the local self-government bodies consist of own responsibilities funded by the local budget, and delegated responsibilities funded by the state budget.
According to the Constitution of the RA and the RA Law “On Administrative-Territorial Division of the RA” (4 December, 1995) Armenia is divided into 10 marzes (regions) and capital city of Yerevan, which is accorded regional status. Regions are divided into urban and rural communities, and Yerevan into districts. Marzes differ in their territories, population size, number of communities and level of economic development.
In Armenia local self-government is exercised only within communities level. It is a separate link of the public government. Each urban and rural community consists of one or more settlements. There are 1000 settlements in Armenia, which are unified in 926 communities of which 48 are urban, 865 are rural and 12 are Yerevan district communities.
The largest region is Gegharkunik Marz, the territory of which is 5349 square kilometers including Lake Sevan 1256 square kilometers. Shirak Marz has the most communities with a total of 119.
The RA Law “On Budget System” (21 July, 1997) was essential for improving of the financial basis of local self-government. It stipulates procedures on making, execution and supervision of community budget, interrelation of duties and budget, as well as types of budget revenues and expenditures at the different administrative levels.
Transfers from the state budget to community budget are regulated by the RA Law “On Financial Equalization” (23 December, 1998) approved the forms of financial equalization and their calculation order.
On 27 November, 2005 a number of reforms were made in the Constitution of RA, in particular:
a) mandatory funding from state budget of powers delegated to communities, the right of definition of payments by communities for local taxes and duties, as well as services delivered /Art. 106/
b) the term of office of bodies of local self-government was defined as four years /Art. 107/
c) it was defined that Yerevan is a community /Art. 108/
d) execution of legal supervision with a view to ensure legitimacy of operation of bodies of local self-government /Art. 108.1/
e) for the dismissal of Head of Community the conclusion of the Constitutional Court is obligatory /Art. 109/
f) the communities may, based on the interests of the public, be merged with each other or separated, as well as it may be established Inter-Community Unions in accordance with the regulation prescribed by the law /Art. 110/ etc.
The changes, made in this Chapter of the Constitution, are aimed at improvement of local self-government, democratization and correspondence of the legislation to the principles of European Charter of Local Self-Government, and are reaction to provisions and proposals set out within the framework of cooperation of RA and Council of Europe. The ten-year experience of the system of local self-government in Armenia shows that its sustainable and steady development needs constant improvement of the legislative field on local self-government through making appropriate changes in laws and other legal acts. The evidence of this is, in particular, the adoption of about 18 legal acts on appropriate amendments and addenda to the RA Law “On Local Self-Government”.
One of the major preconditions for community development is formation and strengthening of capacities of bodies of local self-government. Provision of powers to bodies of local self-government only by the law is not enough for the establishment of real democracy and development of the system of local self-government and communities. For this purpose, it is necessary to form the capacities of bodies of local self-government; one of the significant conditions of this is the creation of permanently operating training system for municipal servants. Thus, the RA Law “On Municipal Service” was adopted on 14 December, 2004. This law determines the basic principals of municipal service in the RA, regulates relationship of classification of posts and class ranks, appointment of office of municipal service, attestation and re-training of municipal servants, reserve of cadres of municipal service, legal status of municipal servants, management and government of municipal service, as well as other relationship thereto.
Selection of staff - the list of names of posts of municipal service of administrations for all Heads of Communities of RA. Appointments for the posts prescribed by the list of names are made in accordance with regulations defined by the RA Law “On Municipal Service”, Articles 42-43/. In case of vacant posts they are supplemented through competition.
Assessment and training – The first attestation of municipal servants is planned to be implemented after the first re-training within the period defined by the law, and in accordance with the law the process of first re-training of municipal servants should be launched on 1 May, 2007. Re-training should be implemented through training organizations selected though competition in accordance with the program adopted by the state authorized body of the government of RA. The total number of posts of municipal service within the administrations of Heads of Communities in Yerevan city and marzes of RA makes up 6724, including chief posts – 32, leading posts – 2605, junior posts – 4087.
Besides, 3 considerable social unions are operating at present in Armenia, which effectively implement the training of the staff of local self-government. Those are Communities Association of Armenia, Community Finance Officers’ Association of Armenia, Association of Councilors of Armenia; one of their aims is the assistance to communities through training, consultation and seminars, as well as promotion to the reforms within the normative-legislative field on local self-government.