The pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament rejected on Wednesday opposition demands for the creation of an ad hoc parliamentary commission that would investigate controversial donations accepted by Yerevan’s municipal administration.
The opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK) demanded such an inquiry last month after a member of the city council affiliated with it, Davit Khazhakian, exposed those donations and questioned their legality.
Hayk Marutian, the Yerevan mayor allied to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, reluctantly named in late November private firms that donated at least 21 garbage collection trucks to the municipality in the last few months.
It emerged that 14 of them came from a construction firm that secured in March 2019 the mayor’s permission to build a residential complex in a Yerevan suburb. Three other vehicles were made available by another company reportedly controlled by one of Armenia’s richest businessmen.
Khazhakian claimed that the expensive donations were made in return for the construction permits given to them. Marutian strongly denied such a quid pro quo.
The LHK leadership said the mayor’s assurances are unconvincing and moved to get the parliament to investigate the “corruption risks” in the mayor’s office. The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the other opposition force holding seats in the National Assembly, backed the LHK initiative.
Deputies representing Pashinian’s My Step alliance blocked the creation of such a body, however, saying that Armenian law does not allow the parliament to interfere in the work of local government bodies.
LHK leader Edmon Marukian condemned the parliament majority’s stance as a serious blow to democracy and government accountability. “With this step backwards you are showing the people of Armenia that … you are afraid of investigating corruption risks,” he told majority leaders.
Marukian speculated that the Yerevan mayor warned the ruling bloc that he “will have problems” if pro-government and opposition parliamentarians look into the controversial donations.
Ararat Mirzoyan, the parliament speaker and a senior My Step member, dismissed Marukian’s claims. “All of us, including both the executive and legislative branches and local governments, must act only within the bounds of powers defined by the constitution and laws,” he said.
Pashinian backed this stance when he spoke in the parliament later on Wednesday.