By Emil Danielyan and Armen Zakarian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Thursday that his Republican Party (HHK) and its junior coalition partners have agreed on the distribution of more government posts, but was reluctant to divulge details of the deal.
He refused to specify how many posts of deputy minister the HHK will cede to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Orinats Yerkir parties, saying only that their distribution will be done in several stages. “Which party gets which ministerial job will be clarified in the process,” he told journalists. “It will be a phased process, not a package one.”
The corresponding appointments will begin next week, he added.
Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir, which each control three ministries, have for weeks been pressing for a greater representation in the executive branch where the Republicans have maintained strong presence. They both argue that they need more power levers because they share responsibility for government policies.
The HHK’s initial resistance to the pressure added new strains to the ruling coalition which was formed in the wake of the disputed May parliamentary elections with President Robert Kocharian’s blessing.
Sources told RFE/RL that Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir will each get five or six vice-ministerial positions in those government agencies that are not headed by their members. Some observers view that as a setback for the ambitious Dashnaktsutyun which hoped for a greater share of the government pie.
Markarian denied media speculation that the two parties are not satisfied with what they have been promised. “None of us feels upset,” he said. “We are all happy with the existing situation because we have reached agreement.”
Still, the HHK’s reluctance to share more power with his allies was highlighted by its parliamentary leader Galust Sahakian who had earlier warned that more partisan appointments could make the government less competent. Sahakian claimed on Thursday that Markarian will have final say in the planned appointments. “The prime minister himself decides whom to appoint,” he said.
The Armenian opposition, meanwhile, uses the ongoing bargaining inside the coalition to cast its members in a negative light. A senior lawmaker from the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance, Victor Dallakian, said the three pro-Kocharian parties are more concerned with maximizing their power than alleviating the country’s grave socioeconomic problems. He said they should have instead focused on preventing the planned increase in public utility fees.
“People must be appointed in accordance with their merits and experience, rather than party affiliation,” agreed another senior oppositionist, Aleksan Karapetian of the National Unity Party.