The head of an Armenian parliamentary oversight body was careful not to again allege government abuses on Monday as he addressed the National Assembly four months after being harshly criticized by President Serzh Sarkisian.
Ishkhan Zakarian answered questions from deputies after completing his first tenure at the helm of the parliament’s Audit Chamber. Sarkisian last week formally asked the parliament dominated by his loyalists to reappoint Zakarian to another six-year term.
Zakarian was nominated by the president despite causing a storm in the political arena in June with a report on alleged abuses in the handling of procurements by some government ministries. He alleged that much of government spending might has been misused or wasted in recent years.
Those claims prompted angry rebuttals from the government and President Sarkisian in particular. Sarkisian angrily accused Zakarian of exceeding his legal powers.
The Audit Chamber chief, who has long held senior positions in the Armenian state hierarchy, avoided any criticism of the government as he spoke ahead of a parliament vote on his candidacy. In particular, he gave no clear answers to opposition lawmakers’ questions about the implications of his controversial report. Zakarian ended his remarks on the parliament floor with “very important” quotes from Sarkisian.
The parliament’s opposition factions made clear that they will vote against Zakarian, saying that the Audit Chamber will no longer dare to challenge the executive. Nikol Pashinian, an opposition deputy, claimed that Zakarian has given the authorities corresponding “guarantees.”
“You should have had the courage to turn down your nomination,” declared another opposition deputy, Zaruhi Postanjian.
Zakarian’s reappointment was backed by the parliamentary factions of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), which control the overwhelming majority of parliament seats. Galust Sahakian, the HHK faction leader, praised the Audit Chamber’s track record under Zakarian.