By Ruzanna Khachatrian
President Robert Kocharian will ask parliament to elect a leading member of the pro-presidential Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) as the new head of a state body tasked with overseeing use of public funds, it emerged on Wednesday.
The Audit Chamber has until now operated under the tutelage of Armenia’s National Assembly and been greatly influenced by its speakers. One of the amendments to the Armenian constitution enacted in November 2005 declared it fully independent of the legislature. The latter can now approve or reject only chamber heads nominated by the president of the republic.
Deputy parliament speaker Ishkhan Zakarian, who is affiliated with the BHK, has for months been tipped to take over the body. Zakarian met with President Robert Kocharian on Wednesday and told RFE/RL afterwards that the head of state will nominate him for the post. He said the decision will be formally conveyed to the parliament leadership later in the day.
Zakarian is a figure close to Kocharian and Gagik Tsarukian, a millionaire businessman and the founding leader of the BHK. The party is represented in the government by three ministers. It also controls one of the two posts of deputy parliament speaker.
The Audit Chamber has repeated criticized in the past the government’s use of public finances and external loans but lacked the legal and administrative muscle to affect government policies. It was particularly active from 2003-2005 when the Armenian parliament was headed by Artur Baghdasarian, the leader of the now opposition Orinats Yerkir Party.
In particular, the chamber harshly criticized the government’s privatization policies, implying that they were tainted with corruption. It also accused the Justice Ministry of misusing a 1999 World Bank loan designed to strengthen the Armenian judiciary. The government denied those allegations.