One in two Armenians thinks that corruption in their country has become more widespread in the past three years despite stated government efforts to combat it, according to a new opinion poll commissioned by Transparency International and released on Thursday.
The poll, which was conducted across Armenia by Gallup this summer, shows that only 15 percent of respondents feel that the scale of corrupt practices within various state institutions has actually decreased since 2007. Accordingly, only 27 percent praised the anti-corruption measures taken by the Armenian authorities so far.
The public mood reported by the pollsters is in tune with Armenia’s performance in global surveys conducted by Transparency International on an annual basis. It ranked 123rd out of 178 countries surveyed in the Berlin-based watchdog’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), down from 99th place it held in 2007.
President Serzh Sarkisian pledged a tough crackdown on corruption when he took office in April 2008. Addressing the Armenian parliament’s Audit Chamber early this year, he stressed the importance of prosecuting state officials suspected of embezzling public funds and engaging in other corrupt practices.
Sarkisian said many Armenians are rightly wondering why abuses uncovered by in various government agencies rarely translate into criminal cases. Armenian law-enforcement authorities say the number of such cases has increased significantly in recent years.
Transparency International’s Armenian affiliate, the Anti-Corruption Center (ACC), has dismissed the official corruption-related statistics, however. Its executive director, Varuzhan Hoktanian, insisted on Thursday high-ranking Armenian officials are still rarely prosecuted on corruption charges.
Presenting the findings of the opinion poll, Hoktanian stood by the ACC’s view that the root cause of the problem is “the fusion of politics and business and the monopolization of both areas.” “When that monopolization reaches enormous levels, the system simply can not survive without corruption,” he said. “That is, if you try to eliminate corruption, the system will crumble.”
Hoktanian added that the conduct of genuinely democratic elections is critical for reforming that system. “We haven’t had a single case of government change through elections,” he told a news conference. “It’s a bit hard to believe that our people always support the incumbent authority.”
That corruption is a key problem hampering Armenia’s development has been acknowledged by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian. Last month, Sarkisian publicly accused several government ministers of doing little to tackle it in their areas of responsibility. He said later in November that he has received “radical” reform proposals from them in response to the criticism.