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Opposition Party Demands Anti-Graft Panel In Parliament


Armenia - Ruben Hakobian, deputy chairman of the opposition Zharangutyun party, at the Central Election Commission in Yerevan, 22Mar2012.

Armenia - Ruben Hakobian, deputy chairman of the opposition Zharangutyun party, at the Central Election Commission in Yerevan, 22Mar2012.

The Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, one of the three opposition groups represented in the National Assembly, on Friday called for the formation of an opposition-dominated parliamentary commission tasked with combating corruption.

Ruben Hakobian, the party’s deputy chairman, said it will submit a relevant bill to lawmakers at the start of the Armenian parliament’s next regular session in September.

“This commission should seek to find and report corrupt practices,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Corruption is a government phenomenon. More precisely, a high-level government phenomenon.”

Anti-corruption commissions already exist within the Armenian presidential administration and the prime minister’s office. The authorities set up another body as part of their stated anti-graft policies late last year. It is charged with scrutinizing incomes reported by Armenia’s top state officials.

Hakobian dismissed those initiatives as an “imitation” of a fight against endemic corruption in the country. “The authorities have set up commissions made up of their own people and supposed to fight against their own people,” he said. “That’s illogical and unnatural. It’s like saying that you must chop your left hand with your right hand.”

The ad hoc commission demanded by Zharangutyun would do a much better job of tackling corrupt practices because it would mostly consist of opposition deputies, added Hakobian.

The commission cannot be set up without the consent of the parliament’s largest faction representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Galust Sahakian, the faction leader, said the Zharangutyun idea is “good” but requires further clarification. “When the draft is put forward we will discuss it and respond,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Sahakian insisted that the authorities are committed to “uprooting corruption.” “It’s not an easy process,” he said. “It’s a very difficult process.”

President Sarkisian has pledged to crack down on corrupt officials throughout his presidency. Local and international anti-graft watchdogs have reported few significant improvements so far, however.

Armenia occupies a lowly 129th place in Berlin-based Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of 183 countries released in December. It ranked 123rd of 178 nations surveyed in 2010.
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