Armenia’s leading anti-graft watchdog reacted with skepticism on Wednesday to a tougher fight against bribery and other corrupt practices ordered by President Serzh Sarkisian.
Sarkisian issued the order on Tuesday when he met with the leadership of the Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement body tasked with combatting abuse of power by various state official. “For us, the fight against corruption is a matter of national security which simply has no alternative,” he said in a speech.
“It’s not the first time that I’m hearing that,” said Varuzhan Hoktanian, the director of programs at the Anti-Corruption Center (ACC), the Armenian affiliate of Transparency International. “That has been said periodically and is repeated now. Serzh Sarkisian has repeatedly said such things since [taking office in] 2008.”
“So I don’t see a fundamentally new anti-corruption policy here,” Hoktanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Armenia ranked, together with Bolivia and Vietnam, 113th out of 176 countries evaluated in Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index released in January.
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian has repeatedly pledged to tackle corruption and boost the rule of law in the country since he was named by Sarkisian to run the Armenian government in September last year. He has periodically discussed his reform agenda with Western diplomats in Yerevan. Karapetian’s most recent meeting with the U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills held on October 20 reportedly focused on his government’s anti-corruption efforts.
In a February speech, Mills urged the authorities in Yerevan to send a “clear message from on high that corruption will not be tolerated and that no one is above the law.”