Armenia’s leading opposition groups voiced skepticism on Wednesday over the formation of a new anti-corruption state body charged with verifying income declarations of senior state officials.
The state Commission on the Ethics of High-Ranking Officials consists of five members appointed by President Serzh Sarkisian upon the recommendation of Armenia’s prime minister, parliament speaker, prosecutor-general and the chairmen of two high courts.
Sarkisian told the commission members after their first meeting on Tuesday that they have an important role to play in the Armenian authorities’ fight against corruption.
“It is Serzh Sarkisian, not the commission, who will decide which official breached ethics and whether or not they should be prosecuted,” claimed Aram Manukian of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
Artsvik Minasian, a deputy from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), likewise said that the commission cannot be independent because all of its members were handpicked by the three branches of government loyal to Sarkisian. The body should have comprised opposition representatives, he said.
“The authorities cannot oversee themselves. And corruption is definitely not in the opposition field, corruption is in the government field,” Minasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Stepan Safarian, a leader of the opposition Zharangutyun party, agreed, saying that the commission will only target “those who betray the authorities.” “That commission will serve as a truncheon hanging over deputies and other officials,” he claimed.
Sarkisian assured the commission members that nobody can exert influence on their work.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior lawmaker representing the pro-government Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), expressed confidence that that work will produce concrete results soon. “I cannot prejudge a commission that has not yet worked and think we should wait and see that work,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.