By Armen Zakarian
Leonid Hakobian, a popular politician and the only Communist Party member to have held a ministerial post in the Armenian government since independence, died early on Thursday at the age of 65.
Party officials said the death was caused by a heart attack.
A leading figure in the Communist Party (HKK), Hakobian was an outspoken critic of Armenia’s post-Soviet governments. He was twice elected to the parliament from the same single-mandate constituency in Yerevan, capitalizing on widespread public disillusionment with the country’s post-Communist leadership.
In early 2000 he joined the cabinet of then prime minister Aram Sarkisian as minister for urban development. His appointment was part of Sarkisian’s efforts to build a broad, multi-party coalition against President Robert Kocharian, with whom he was locked in a bitter power struggle.
Although Hakobian kept his job after Sarkisian’s dismissal in May, he stepped down in December 2000 before being elected a member of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences.
The Communists reverted to their harsh anti-government rhetoric his resignation.