By Hrant Aleksanian in Stepanakert
Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian began a reshuffle of his cabinet on Friday just over a week after publicly admitting that it is widely distrusted by the unrecognized republic’s population.
Ghukasian’s office announced four ministerial appointments late in the afternoon. Government sources said more high-level changes should be expected in the coming days.
One of the decrees appointed the Karabakh leader’s chief of staff, Ararat Danielian, as deputy prime minister. The position has been vacant for the past several years. The most unexpected was Ghukasian’s decision to relieve Foreign Minister Ashot Ghulian of his duties and name him minister of culture and education.
Ghulian was replaced Arman Melikian, the Karabakh government’s permanent representative in Yerevan. Melikian, who has served as Armenia’s ambassador to Kazakhstan in the past, will retain his previous job for the time being, suggesting that he will continue to spend much of his time in the Armenian capital.
Also losing his job was Agriculture Minister Benik Bakhshian. He was replaced by his deputy Vahram Baghdasarian.
The previous education minister, Armen Sargsian, is affiliated with the Karabakh chapter of the influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), and the nationalist party was quick to criticize his sacking.
“I think that the president is preparing for the upcoming parliamentary elections and it is unfortunate that he dealt the first blow to a Dashnaktsutyun minister,” said Alyosha Gabrielian, a member of the Dashnaktsutyun faction in the Karabakh parliament.
Dashnaktsutyun is represented in Armenia’s government and was previously in opposition to Ghukasian.
Gabrielian added that personnel changes should have instead targeted other government agencies where corruption and mismanagement are more prevalent. He said many local government and law-enforcement officials are primarily concerned with helping businesses owned or controlled by them.
“Those businesses are not registered in their name. But the people know to whom they belong,” Gabrielian told RFE/RL.
Ghukasian subjected his government to unusually strong criticism at a meeting with a large group of Karabakh officials on December 16. “Government officials are often indifferent to citizens’ problems,” he told them. “There is mistrust toward the authorities.”
(Photolur photo: Ghukasian watching a military exercise of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army this autumn.)