By Hrach Melkumian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have agreed to give more high-ranking government posts to their two coalition partners after weeks of strong resistance that threatened to disrupt their power-sharing alliance.
The Orinats Yerkir and especially Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) parties, which have three ministers each in Markarian’s cabinet, demand that the posts of deputy minister, department head and deputy governor also be distributed on the partisan basis. The Republicans, who control many of the so-called “discretionary” positions, were until now opposed to the idea, arguing that partisan appointments would damage good governance.
Markarian, however, unexpectedly announced a softening in the HHK’s stance late on Wednesday. “This issue has been blown out of proportion,” he told journalists. “Naturally, some of the discretionary posts will be offered to the coalition parties.
But he was anxious to stress that only those officials whose performance is deemed “unsatisfactory” will be replaced by Orinats Yerkir and Dashnaktsutyun nominees.
“We are talking only about vacant posts,” the leader of the HHK faction in parliament, Galust Sahakian, told RFE/RL on Thursday. He said he continues to believe that government officials should be selected on the basis of their professionalism, rather than party affiliation.
Sahakian denied that the Republicans initially opposed the idea because they did not want to loosen their grip on the executive. He claimed that only 15 of some 130 “discretionary” jobs are held by members of the HHK.
Meanwhile, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir leaders told RFE/RL that they will soon submit vice-ministerial candidacies to the coalition’s coordinating board. “Orinats Yerkir would like to have representatives in all ministries and other government agencies,” said the party’s parliamentary leader, Samvel Balasanian. “But we propose that every discretionary appointment be discussed and approved by the coalition.”
Balasanian’s Dashnaktsutyun counterpart, Levon Mkrtchian, said: “We believe that all coalition parties must be represented at the discretionary level as well. We must have certain levers to share responsibility [for the government’s policies].”
In addition to the ministerial posts, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir control two regional administrations each.