By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Speaker Tigran Torosian on Friday angrily rejected allegations that he has been firing parliament staff affiliated with his predecessor Artur Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir party and forcing others to join the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Senior members of Orinats Yerkir, which is now in opposition to the Armenian government, have accused the HHK of launching a mass recruitment of government officials and other public sector employees with an eye towards next year’s parliamentary elections. “According to our information, a similar process is underway in the National Assembly,” Lragir.am, an online publication believed to be close to Baghdasarian, charged this week.
Torosian rebutted the claims as “complete idiotism,” saying that he has only disbanded three parliament staff divisions, which employed about 35 people, because “those structures that had nothing to do with the work of the National Assembly.” “Frankly, I don’t care who is affiliated with which party,” he told RFE/RL. “When some structure is liquidated you just can’t hire anyone in place of people laid off as a result.”
“If people look at the staff cuts in parliament from a partisan angle, it means they admit that the parliament had some partisan structures and put Mr. Baghdasarian in a very bad position,” he said in a clear jibe at the ex-speaker who was widely accused of brining scores of Orinats Yerkir loyalists into the 500-strong National Assembly staff during his three-year tenure.
Baghdasarian also sparked controversy by setting up over a dozen consultative bodies that advised him on a broad range of issues, most of them unrelated to legislative work. Most of those bodies are now expected to be dissolved by his successor.
Torosian, who is a leading member of the HHK, refused to comment on reports that his party has been forcibly recruiting new members among senior local and central government officials and civil servants since it was joined by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian last month. Sarkisian’s move triggered an influx of more wealthy businessmen and other influential individuals into the HHK. Analysts believe that the party’s victory in the 2007 elections is vital for the success of Sarkisian’s reputed plans to become Armenia’s next president.
The HHK embarked on what appears to be a mass recruitment of teachers of public schools across the country last May. More than a hundred of them were publicly admitted to the party during a high-profile ceremony attended by its chairman, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.
(Photolur photo: Tigran Torosian.)