By Armen Zakarian
The three political parties making up Armenia’s coalition government were putting late Wednesday the finishing touches on their agreement to divide more senior government posts.
Some of their leaders said they have already agreed on how many posts of deputy minister each party will receive and that Prime Minister Andranik Markarian will make corresponding appointments after consulting with every minister affected by the staff changes.
The expansion of the power-sharing agreement that set up the coalition last June is demanded by the two junior partners of Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK): the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Orinats Yerkir Party. The two parties, which hold two ministerial positions each, argue that they need greater presence in the government to be able to share responsibility for its policies.
Sources involved in the ongoing bargaining told RFE/RL that Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir will get five or six vice-ministerial jobs each and have already nominated candidates who need to be endorsed by the corresponding ministers. The HHK, which is already strongly represented in various echelons of government, will likely get a dozen such posts.
That, sources said, will require the creation of seven new vice-ministerial slots. The names of the new partisan officials may be announced as early as Thursday, they added.
According to a leading member of the HHK, parliament vice-speaker Tigran Torosian, the division of more power levers will be proportional to the size of the three parties’ parliament factions. The Republicans control at least 40 of the National Assembly’s 131 seats, while Orinats Yerkir and Dashnaktsutyun have 19 and 11 seats respectively.
Representatives of the two junior coalition partners say privately that they hope the power-sharing arrangement will be expanded further to encompass lower-level government agencies and provincial administrations.
However, Torosian ruled out such a possibility, saying that the parties supporting President Robert Kocharian will get more government jobs only in the event of appropriate vacancies. “There must be no artificial appointments,” he told RFE/RL.
Markarian and other Republicans had initially resisted the Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir demands for the distribution of vice-ministerial posts on the partisan basis. But they later dropped their objections under apparent pressure from Kocharian.
(Photolur photo: Leaders of the three parties shaking hands after signing a coalition accord on June 11.)