By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian government’s stated anti-corruption drive was on Saturday dismissed as a gimmick by one of its leading opponents who alleged that he personally witnessed numerous instances of high-level corruption and nepotism during his 18-month spell as mayor of Yerevan.
“It is impossible to establish order and justice in any government agency if that is not accepted by the highest authority,” said a leader of the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, Albert Bazeyan, in a renewed attack on the authorities.
In his words, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian sought lucrative jobs for his cronies and avoided steps that were not approved by the powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Bazeyan, who was sacked as Yerevan mayor one year ago after growing differences with President Robert Kocharian, claimed that he fell victim to his attempts to ensure the rule of law.
Shortly after his ouster Bazeyan founded Hanrapetutyun together with a group of close associates of Vazgen Sarkisian, the assassinated former prime minister. The centrist party was at the forefront of last autumn’s failed opposition campaign for the resignation of Kocharian.
Bazeyan said that he was unable to fire one of the deputy mayors of Yerevan suspected of corruption because of Markarian’s objections. He claimed that the prime minister had initially agreed to the removal of the unnamed vice-mayor but then suddenly changed his mind, saying that “Serzh Sarkisian is against that.”
On another occasion, the ex-mayor continued, he turned down a request to give a senior post to the son of Galust Sahakian, a leading member of Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK). Sahakian now heads the largest Miasnutyun faction of the Armenian parliament.
Kocharian, who can name and sack Yerevan mayors under the Armenian constitution, had publicly accused Bazeyan of poor performance shortly before signing a decree relieving him of his duties. Last October, Kocharian alleged that the ex-mayor might have been responsible for serious financial abuses.
However, law-enforcement agencies said at the time that they have no evidence to prosecute Bazeyan.