By Ruzanna Khachatrian
President Robert Kocharian told Armenia’s main national security agency to avoid any involvement in the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections that could be seen as damaging his political opponents. He said the latest reorganization of the Ministry of National Security will serve that purpose.
“The elections must be free, fair and transparent, and law-enforcement authorities’ involvement in those elections must be ruled out,” Kocharian told the staff of the newly formed National Security Service, the former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB.
“You have only one objective: strict enforcement of laws in Armenia,” he said.
Kocharian claimed that his Tuesday decree restructuring the ex-KGB and the Interior Ministry, renamed the Police, will keep the security agencies from meddling in politics and suppressing the opposition.
The security apparatus was heavily involved in previous Armenian elections criticized by international monitors. The Armenian opposition claims that the incumbent president, who is seeking a second term in office, will again rely on it before and during the February 19 presidential election, pointing to Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s appointment as chief of Kocharian’s campaign headquarters.
The presidential decree, which stemmed from two laws adopted by the parliament this year, lowered the status of the two powerful law-enforcement bodies. Their re-appointed bosses will no longer have a ministerial rank and be considered members of the governing cabinet. Kocharian and other top officials said the two agencies can not be run by political figures from now on.
“The system will be headed not by a politician but by a professional officer regardless of who is in power,” the National Security Service director, Karlos Petrosian, told RFE/RL. He said no other changes are expected in his agency.
Kocharian, addressing its employees during their official holiday, vowed to strengthen Armenia’s security but said that should not roll back political reform. “National security must not be ensured at the expense of freedom of speech, democracy and human rights,” he said.
(Fotolur photo: Kocharian giving the National Security Service its new official flag)