Representatives of the pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament circulated on Friday a bill to set up a new committee that would work out and enforce a code of conduct for lawmakers.
The bill took the form of draft amendments to the parliament’s existing statutes. They would require members of the next National Assembly to respect laws, political opponents and “moral norms of the public.”
Unlike other standing committees of the parliament, the ethics panel would be formed by consensus. According to Davit Harutiunian, one of the three authors of the bill, this means that the parliament majority and the opposition minority would have equal representation there.
The commission would have no authority to punish deputies found to have violated ethical norms, however. Harutiunian, who heads the parliament committee on legal affairs, downplayed this fact, saying that “political responsibility” envisaged for such lawmakers is no less important than administrative sanctions.
“It is not realistic to think that we can put an end to all those undesirable things at once. That will take time,” Vartan Bostanjian, another sponsor of the bill, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Bostanjian referred to occasional bitter exchanges between pro-government and opposition lawmakers. They usually involve wealthy parliamentarians with questionable reputations. One of them, a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), insulted an opposition colleague during a parliament debate last November.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Harutiunian said the ethics committee would also strive to ensure deputies’ compliance with a constitutional provision that forbids them from engaging in entrepreneurial activity. It would ask the National Assembly to revoke the mandates of deputies defying the ban, he said.
The new panel should also tackle widespread absenteeism among wealthy businesspeople holding parliament seats, added Harutiunian.
Zaruhi Postanjian, a deputy from the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, was skeptical about the bill. She claimed that the Armenian authorities themselves have allowed loyal entrepreneurs to enter the parliament and continue doing business.