By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian parliament began on Tuesday debates on a controversial government bill on civil service which threatens to re-ignite tensions inside the majority Miasnutyun bloc. The legislation, intended to ensure independence of the state bureaucracy, proved to be highly divisive even before it reached the parliament floor, opening new cracks in the already shaky alliance.
The People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) and some opposition factions in the National Assembly have branded it “unconstitutional,” accusing President Robert Kocharian of seeking to tighten his hold on power. But the HZhK’s senior partner in Miasnutyun, the governing Republican Party (HHK) is a strong advocate of the bill.
Representatives of the two parties failed to overcome their differences at a meeting earlier in the day. The meeting was attended by Justice Minister David Harutiunian, a close associate of Kocharian and one of the authors of the bill.
The controversy centers on a provision in the draft law giving the head of state the right to appoint all seven members of a supervisory body that would decide on key appointments in the Armenian civil service. The HZhK and opposition parties argue that the clause would place the entire state apparatus under direct presidential control and offset proposed safeguards against arbitrary dismissal of civil servants.
The Republicans and their allies reject the argument, saying that the bill, if approved, will be an important instrument in the government’s stated crackdown on corruption and nepotism that has plagued many government agencies.