By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The long-awaited disclosure of the Armenian government’s strategy of combating corruption was thrust into doubt on Thursday after it was rejected by one of the three parties making up the ruling coalition.
Leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) strongly criticized the results of a two-year work of a government task force in charge of developing a comprehensive anti-corruption plan sought by Western donors. They also admitted the existence of differences inside the coalition and said Dashnaktsutyun is ready to cooperate with President Robert Kocharian’s opponents.
The initiative has been funded by the World Bank which provided a $340,000 grant for that purpose in 2001. The bank and the International Monetary Fund are increasingly demanding publication of the promised document.
According to Armen Rustamian, a senior member of Dashnaktsutyun’s governing body, the whole undertaking may have been a waste of time and resources. “The spending of approximately $300,000 on the preparation of that program is controversial,” he said. “How has it been used? What have been its results?”
The plan in question was due to be reviewed last month by representatives of Dashnaktsutyun and its coalition partners: the Republican Party (HHK) of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and the Orinats Yerkir Party led by parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian. An HHK leader, Tigran Torosian, told RFE/RL on August 26 that it will be finalized and made public “in two or three months’ time.” Rustamian’s remarks, however, make that problematic.
The criticism was contained in a report on Dashnaktsutyun’s 100-day record in government presented to journalists by Rustamian and other leading members of the pro-Kocharian nationalist party. They said fighting corruption has been the top priority of the ministers of agriculture, health and social security as well as two provincial governors affiliated with Dashnaktsutyun. They said the officials have already asked law-enforcement agencies to investigate several instances of alleged graft, but declined to elaborate.
Rustamian made it clear that the Dashnaks will not shy away from seeking the prosecution of those government officials who are members of the HHK or Orinats Yerkir. In an apparent jab at the HHK, he underlined his party’s disaffection with “the extravagant lifestyle of some officials” and denounced unspecified “dubious government appointments.”
The comments reflect persisting friction between the three coalition partners. Rustamian acknowledged it, deploring “elements of arrogance and mistrust inside the coalition. “Very often participants of the coalition try to act on their own and claim credit for the results of our activities,” he said, adding that Dashnaktsutyun is ready to “make concessions to preserve the coalition.”
He went on to warn: “Our political activities can not be confined to the coalition framework. We are ready to cooperate with both extra-parliamentary forces and the opposition.” But he would not specify what concrete forms that cooperation might take.