By Astghik Bedevian
Justice Minister David Harutiunian urged wealthy lawmakers on Thursday to comply with one of the provisions of Armenia’s newly amended constitution that bans them from heading and even sitting on the governing boards of private firms.
Under the Armenian constitution, members of the National Assembly can not engage in any entrepreneurial activity and get paid for any work which is not “scientific, pedagogical or creative.” But they were until now able to serve as chairmen of companies usually owned by them. A new clause in the revised constitution, which came into force last week, makes that illegal as well.
“We have made it clear that they are forbidden from heading boards of directors or being appointed to other positions by shareholders,” Harutiunian told RFE/RL. “Therefore, all those deputies who hold such positions must resign those positions.”
A considerable part of the assembly’s 131 members are wealthy businessmen who were elected either as independents or on the tickets of the three pro-establishment parties represented in Armenia’s government. Some of those deputies said they are ready to respect the new constitutional requirement.
“I have businesses of which I am the board chairman,” said Hakob Hakobian of the People’s Deputy group of lawmakers not affiliated with any party. “If that’s now against the law, I will resign and the board will be headed by son or another relative.”
Aleksan Petrosian, the principal owner of the MAP winery, said he will similarly hand over the company reins to his 24-year-old son.
The leader of the parliament’s second-largest Orinats Yerkir faction, Samvel Balasanian, told RFE/RL that a special “working group” will be set up soon to discuss ways of ensuring compliance with the new constitutional clause.
That, according to the chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, Rafik Petrosian, will not be an easy task. “I’m sure there will be differing interpretations of Article 65. People will interpret it in a way beneficial for them,” he said.
Almost all members of the People’s Deputy are businessmen. Business presence in the governing party factions is also strong. For example, at least seven of the 21 Orinats Yerkir deputies are known to own large businesses. Balasanian himself has a major stake in a brewery in Gyumri and other firms. He insisted that he has not held any corporate posts since 1999.
Most of the wealthy parliamentarians are notorious for poor attendance of parliament sessions and are thought to actively participate in day-to-day operations of their companies regardless of whether or not they nominally run them. It is therefore unlikely that the new constitution will hamper their entrepreneurial activities.
(Photolur photo: Balasanian, left, and other Orinats Yerkir deputies attending a parliament session on Thursday.)