By Hrach Melkumian
Minister for Local Government Hovik Abrahamian confirmed on Friday reports that he is about to head a new powerful agency that will directly control regional administrations as well as the existing government departments on water resources, emergencies and refugee affairs.
Abrahamian said a relevant presidential decree, which was expected to be signed last month, has been delayed by unspecified “technical issues.” He denied that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), one of the three parties represented in government, is trying to block his appointment.
“There is no problem here,” he told reporters. “Newspapers write that Dashnaktsutyun is against. But this is not true.”
Abrahamian, who has extensive business interests in his native Artashat district south of Yerevan, is already regarded as Armenia’s unofficial deputy prime minister. Some observers have speculated that President Robert Kocharian wants to use him as a counterweight to Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.
But Abrahamian claimed that the new status will not make him more influential. “I already coordinate those spheres and am aware of their problems,” he said. So there will be nothing new if that ministry is set up. I am already a super-minister.”
Abrahamian, who is nominally affiliated with Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), is known to have had uneasy relations with Dashnaktsutyun in the past. This might explain why he objected to Kocharian’s decision to put some regional administrations under the control of Dashnaktsutyun and the third coalition party, Orinats Yerkir. Four of Armenia’s ten governors now represent the HHK’s junior coalition partners and can effectively defy Abrahamian.
“We have cases where governors are telling village chiefs, school principals and other local officials to join their party,” the minister said. “We must not allow this to continue.”