A parliament deputy representing the ruling Republican Party (HHK) has called for the abolition of a constitutional provision that bars Armenian lawmakers from directly engaging in entrepreneurial activity.
The clause stipulates that members of the National Assembly can combine their duties only with “scholarly or pedagogical work” for private or public institutions. An ad hoc commission formed by President Serzh Sarkisian has not proposed to remove or alter this ban in its package of draft amendments to the Armenian constitution.
Levon Martirosian, an HHK deputy, criticized this fact during parliamentary debates on the constitutional changes last week. He reaffirmed his stance on Tuesday in comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Why is it deemed more acceptable for a parliament deputy to engage in scholarly or pedagogical activity than to do business or engage in any other activity?” Martirosian said. He argued that this constitutional ban is “not working” despite having being in place for the past 20 years.
The lawmaker, who previously worked in President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff, seemed to allude to the fact that many of his pro-government colleagues are wealthy individuals with extensive business interests. While officially holding no executive business posts, they are widely believed to be actively involved in the day-to-day operations of companies owned by them or their relatives.
Opposition politicians and civil society members have long said that constitutional ban is ineffectual and needs to be tightened in order to separate business from politics.
Martirosian insisted, however, that there is nothing inherently wrong with lawmakers’ involvement in business. He said it must be up to voters to decide whether a particular entrepreneur should hold a parliament seat.
At the same time Martirosian could not say whether he will submit a corresponding proposal to the presidential commission on constitutional reform. The commission is expected to publicize the final version of the sweeping amendments before the Armenian parliament votes on them early next week.
Vahram Baghdasarian, the parliament majority leader, on Tuesday defended the legal ban and the commission’s reluctance to seek its abolition. “We are trying to separate business from legislative work,” he said.