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By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian has appointed a replacement for former Urban Development Minister Ara Aramian exactly two months after his resignation over a politically damaging scandal involving his son.

The appointment of Aram Harutiunian, a parliament deputy and businessman, was reported by state-run media on Wednesday. Like Aramian, he is a member of the Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) party which controls the post in accordance with a power-sharing agreement with Kocharian and two other major pro-presidential parties.

A construction engineer by training, Harutiunian, 36, has been a little-known member of the National Assembly since 1999, combining legislative work with entrepreneurial activity. He currently specializes in imports of fuel and owns a chain of gasoline stations in Yerevan and outside it.

Aramian stepped down on April 9 following the arrest and prosecution of his 24-year-old son on charges of involvement in a brazen gunfight at a downtown Yerevan café. The shootout was apparently heard by Kocharian just as he was entertaining Georgia’s visiting President Mikhail Saakashvili in a nearby nightspot.

Aramian has reportedly been given a senior job in the parliament staff by Artur Baghdasarian, the National Assembly speaker who leads Orinats Yerkir. He was not the sole Orinats Yerkir minister dogged by scandal. Culture Minister Tamara Poghosian, the only female member of the Armenian government, was replaced last month following a series of gaffes that had earned her a reputation of a flamboyant and incompetent official. The current culture minister, Hovik Hoveyan, joined Orinats Yerkir shortly after his appointment and has already provoked controversy by giving high-level jobs to a number of fellow party members.

The Armenian media was rife with speculation that Baghdasarian, who is often accused of populism by his critics, had trouble finding suitable candidates to fill the ministerial vacancies.

(Photolur photo: Aram Harutiunian.)
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