By Shakeh Avoyan
Levon Sarkisian, an obscure deputy who rarely speaks in the Armenian parliament, punched an opposition colleague this week just hours after his brother was given a lucrative job in the country’s power distribution network, officials confirmed on Saturday.
A spokesman for the Unified Electrical Distribution Network told RFE/RL that Armen Sarkisian was named on Tuesday to run the state-run company’s newly created division in Yerevan’s Zeytun borough. The official said the new unit was separated from the electricity network of the city’s Arabkir district to make the company’s operations in the area more efficient.
But some network insiders claimed that the new position was specially created for Sarkisian who used to be the deputy head of Armenian Airlines and has never worked in the energy sector. They said the Arabkir unit’s new boss, Vazgen Geoletsian, was appointed because of being related to National Security Minister Karlos Petrosian.
Senior posts in the loss-making and corrupt power grids are considered among the most prestigious and lucrative in Armenia’s public sector. Many of their managers have political or family connections with senior government officials.
With an annual turnover of more than $150 million, the power utilities, which were merged into a single company earlier this year, are a major sector of the struggling Armenian economy. According to various estimates, fraud and inefficiency there cost the country as much as $30 million every year.
The pro-opposition daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” suggested that Levon Sarkisian’s assault Aramayis Barseghian, a deputy from the opposition People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), was the manifestation of his “gratitude toward the authorities” for his brother’s appointment. Barseghian was among several opposition lawmakers who disrupted parliament proceedings this week over speaker Armen Khachatrian’s refusal to allow a debate on an opposition bid to impeach President Robert Kocharian.
Levon Sarkisian is one of the owners of Yerevan’s largest flour mill. He was elected to the parliament in May 1999 from one of the city’s constituencies in a ballot marred with allegations of vote buying. A member of the People’s Deputy non-partisan parliamentary group supporting Kocharian, he has rarely delivered speeches in the National Assembly.