By Karine Kalantarian
Levon Mkrtchian’s membership of the influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) had nothing to do with his appointment as minister of science and education, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian claimed on Friday.
Markarian said Mkrtchian was given the post, which he had held from 1998-99, only because of his “professional skills and experience.” “Levon is my associate regardless of his party affiliation,” he told reporters. “And he is not a novice in this sphere.”
Mkrtchian, until now a deputy minister of foreign affairs, was named education minister by a presidential decree signed on Thursday, becoming a second government member affiliated with Dashnaktsutyun. The nationalist party has a 9-strong faction in the 131-member National Assembly and is a major ally of President Robert Kocharian. Mkrtchian said he will continue to be its “active member”.
According to Markarian, the previous minister, Eduard Ghazarian, was relieved of his duties “at his request.” The premier denied any link between his dismissal and a recent corruption scandal in the education ministry. A senior ministry official went on the run in September after facing prosecution on corruption charges.
Ghazarian joined the government in June 1999 after being nominated by the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), then a junior partner in the governing Miasnutyun bloc. The HZhK is now in opposition to Kocharian and the current cabinet.