By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian government is considering a major overhaul of its structure that could lead to the creation of a single powerful ministry overseeing local governments and the national police, a senior official confirmed on Saturday.
“There have been discussions in the government about the creation of such a structure,” Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian told RFE/RL. “The issue is still in the discussion stages.”
Abrahamian, the unofficial number two figure in Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s coalition government, has already been tipped as the most likely head of the new agency which would merge his current ministry and the Armenian police. He, however, dismissed as “not true” the speculation.
The law-enforcement agency was already reorganized into the Police Service late last year with the abolition by President Robert Kocharian of the Interior Minister in accordance with a new Armenian law on police. The move placed it under the direct control of Kocharian, reinforcing his grip on Armenia’s security apparatus.
The possible police reorganization could give Markarian and three pro-Kocharian parties making up his cabinet some degree of oversight over the police just as it faces strong criticism in connection with the recent wave of high-profile killings in Armenia. One of those parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), is already pushing for a sweeping “reform” of all law-enforcement bodies widely accused of corruption and abuse of power.
Some Dashnaktsutyun leaders are known to be critical of Abrahamian and would oppose his appointment as the head of the new interior ministry. But Abrahamian, who is a leading member of Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) and has extensive business interests, denied having any major disagreements with Dashnaktsutyun, saying that his relations with its leadership are “very warm.”
Some Armenian media speculated recently that Kocharian is intent on making Abrahamian a counterweight to his most influential associate, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, and other pro-presidential forces. One newspaper claimed that the local government minister underscored his loyalty to the head of state by presenting the latter’s newly married son with a luxury car. Abrahamian vehemently denied the claims as “false” and “immoral.”