The pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament said on Tuesday it will avoid for now launching an inquiry that could lead to Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian’s expulsion from the National Assembly.
A small and reputedly pro-government party demanded last week a criminal investigation into Tsarukian’s entrepreneurial activities, saying that they may have violated the Armenian constitution which bans lawmakers from doing business. Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian swiftly responded by instructing the Special Investigative Service (SIS) to look into the issue.
The party also urged parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan to set up an ad hoc ethics commission that would also scrutinize Tsarukian’s activities and consider asking the Constitutional Court to strip him of his parliament seat.
Under Armenian law, such a commission can be formed by the parliamentary faction of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc, which has a two-thirds majority in the parliament. The faction leader, Lilit Makunts, said that it will not trigger a parliamentary inquiry at least until the release of the SIS’s findings.
“At the moment it is important and interesting for us to wait for the conclusion of law-enforcement bodies,” Makunts told reporters.
A spokeswoman for the SIS, Marina Ohanjanian, said the law-enforcement agency will decide by May 13 whether to launch criminal proceedings against the leader of Armenia’s largest parliamentary opposition force.
Tsarukian, who is also one of the country’s richest men, maintains that he fully complies with the constitutional requirement. He says that he owns but does not manage dozens of businesses.
Accordingly, the tycoon made clear on Tuesday that he will not resign from the parliament. “I will give up my mandate only when I see a country of my dreams, when the plight of the people improves, when they repay their debts, when they become prosperous and when the country develops,” he said.
Tsarukian’s parliament seat was called into question amid mounting tensions between his party and Pashinian’s bloc. The BHK leader strongly criticized the government’s economic policies in early April. His associates did not deny last week media reports saying that all 25 other lawmakers representing the BHK will quit the parliament if their leader dose lose his seat.