The opposition minority in Armenia’s parliament on Tuesday looked set to lose control of one of its 13 standing committees tasked with enforcing a code of conduct for lawmakers.
The Ethics Committee has until now been the sole parliamentary panel dominated by opposition deputies. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) had agreed to cede 4 of the 6 committee seeds to deputies representing the Prosperous Armenia, Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun party as well as the Armenian National Congress (HAK) as a gesture of goodwill.
The National Assembly approved in the first reading a bill that will give the HHK and its junior coalition partner, the Orinats Yerkir party, two more seats and thus make the two sides equally represented in the Ethics Committee.
The HHK’s parliamentary faction drafted the bill following a December 7 row between Davit Harutiunian, one of its senior members sitting on the committee, and the committee chairman, the HAK’s Nikol Pashinian. The latter controversially refused to allow Harutiunian to attend a committee meeting that discussed the HHK’s recent boycott of a parliament session initiated by the opposition. Pashinian insists that he acted in accordance with the parliament statutes.
“This is a manifestation of the totalitarian mentality reigning in Armenia,” Pashinian said of the HHK bill. “The authorities cannot put up with not controlling even a minor power lever.”
Pashinian and another opposition lawmaker, Dashnaktsutyun’s Armen Rustamian, warned that the opposition minority could boycott the work of the Ethics Committee if the HHK measure is adopted in the second and final reading. “In that case, let them solve their ethical problems by themselves,” said Rustamian.
Arpine Hovannisian, an HHK deputy and one of the authors of the bill, rejected the criticism. She argued that the ruling party is only seeking equal representation in the committee with the opposition forces represented in the National Assembly.
Parliamentary leaders of the HHK, Dashnaktsutyun and the BHK met later in the day in a bid to agree on a mutually acceptable solution. No agreements were reached at that meeting, however.