An Armenian anti-corruption body tasked with scrutinizing asset declarations submitted by top state officials will be headed by one of its newly appointed members nominated by the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK).
The Commission on Prevention of Corruption is a successor to a largely ineffectual body that had been set up by the former Armenian authorities. It is empowered to not only process asset declarations but also ask law-enforcement bodies to prosecute officials suspected of engaging in corrupt practices or making false disclosures. The commission will also be able to conduct its own inquiries into possible conflicts of interest among them.
Under a relevant Armenian law passed in 2017 and amended this year, the commission will consist of five members. The Armenian government, the Supreme Judicial Council and the three political forces represented in the parliament each nominated one member. The Armenian appointed all five nominees in secret ballot on November 19.
The commission members in turn chose the LHK nominee, Haykuhi Harutiunian, as their chairwoman on Tuesday. Prime Nikol Pashinian hailed their choice.
“A candidate nominated by the opposition has been elected chairwoman of the Commission on Preventing Corruption,” Pashinian wrote on Facebook. “Just another fact about the New Armenia.”
Edgar Shatirian, a commission member installed by Pashinian’s My Step alliance, also vied for the post but was not backed by any of his colleagues. He announced his decision to leave the commission later on Tuesday.
Shatirian insisted on Wednesday that the resignation was not the result of his failure to become commission chairman. At the same time he said the fact that none of the other commission members voted for him means they do not trust him.
Shatirian also dismissed media speculation that My Step leaders had promised that he will run the commission.
My Step’s parliamentary leader, Lilit Makunts, also said that Shatirian had received no such promises from the ruling bloc. “If he refused the status of a commission member, I think he was simply not prepared to work in the commission,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The Armenian government has pledged to strengthen the commission as part of its anti-corruption strategy and a three-year action plan adopted by it in October. Justice Minister Rustam Badasian said Armenian judges will be a key focus of the body’s activities.