By Shakeh Avoyan
President Robert Kocharian played down on Friday the significance of continuing squabbles within his ruling three-party coalition, saying that they are inevitable under power-sharing circumstances. He also implied that he has no plans to sack Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and his cabinet.
“Try to find another country where there is a coalition government and there are no such phenomena happening from time to time. You won’t find such a country,” Kocharian told reporters during a visit to a carpet factory in Yerevan.
He was commenting on the recent bitter war of words between Markarian and parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian. The two mean lead two of the three pro-presidential parties represented in government.
The row was sparked last month by rumors about Markarian’s imminent dismissal which the Armenian premier and his Republican Party (HHK) say were spread Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir Party. The latter were also accused of setting up illegal parliamentary bodies to win Baghdasarian more supporters. Orinats Yerkir rebutted the allegations and publicly lashed out at the HHK-dominated government last week.
The row highlighted uneasy relationships between the HHK, Orinats Yerkir and the third coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, raising fresh questions about the future of their power-sharing agreement signed in June 2003.
But Kocharian insisted that differences between the three parties are not as serious as they are presented by the media. “Look at things more coolly,” he advised journalists.
The Armenian leader indicated that he has no reason to change his government, singling out its improving tax collection record. “The greater the stability of a government implementing the budget [successfully], the better for the country and its economy,” he explained.
Kocharian also said that his high-profile campaign against tax evasion is already bearing fruit. “The first two months of this year show that the influence which I am trying to exert over those [tax collecting] bodies is clearly yielding positive results,” he said. “Both in January and February, we more than met our budgetary targets. I am sure that we will not have problems with that this year as well.”
Kocharian held a series of much-publicized meetings with Armenia’s leading businessmen and tax officials in late December and early January. He warned that tax fraud and rampant corruption among tax and customs officials will not be tolerated anymore.