By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian dismissed on Saturday Environment Minister Murad Muradian in a decree ending months of speculation about the latter’s political future. The move, which is thought to have been agreed with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, is seen as part of the ongoing cabinet reshuffle that could change the make-up of the current governing coalition.
The reshuffle began on July 6 when Kocharian ordered Minister for State Revenues Andranik Manukian and Minister for Transport and Communications Yervand Zakharian to swap their posts. Manukian was implicitly criticized for being too heavy-handed in tax collection.
Muradian joined the cabinet last year as a representative of the Kayunutyun (Stability) group of independent deputies, then one of the biggest forces in the parliament. The group’s chairman, Vartan Ayvazian, has been reportedly trying to get his post in recent months.
But Kayunutyun, which has shrunk dramatically after a wave of defections over the past year, was dealt a fresh blow on Wednesday when another of its members quit the group, citing disagreements with Ayvazian. Hakob Hakobian charged that Ayvazian has been plotting Muradian’s ouster to satisfy his political ambitions.
The move left Kayunutyun with only ten deputies, the minimum number of members a non-partisan parliamentary group must comprise in order to have an official status in the National Assembly. Ayvazian will lose his parliamentary seat if he joins the government, in which case the group will cease to exist.