By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The three government ministers affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) will be replaced by other members of the influential party represented in Armenia’s governing coalition, it emerged on Tuesday.
Dashnaktsutyun announced the unexpected development following a week-long congress that discussed its political strategy for the next few years. A top party leader claimed that Agriculture Minister David Lokian, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Aghvan Vartanian and Education Minister Levon Mkrtchian themselves decided to resign because of being elected to the party’s worldwide governing Bureau.
“Their resignation was their personal choice,” said Hrant Markarian, the newly reelected de facto head of the Bureau. “They figured that being a member of the Bureau is much more important than holding the post of minister.”
The three men occupied the ministerial posts in the administration of former President Robert Kocharian for the past several years. Kocharian’s successor, Serzh Sarkisian, reappointed them to Armenia’s new coalition government formed by him as recently as last month. The government also comprises members of Sarkisian’s Republican Party as well as the Prosperous Armenia and Orinats Yerkir parties.
Markarian insisted that the Dashnaktsutyun ministers were not forced to quit by more than 100 congress delegates representing the party’s chapters in Armenia and all major Armenian communities abroad. “I am 99 percent sure that had they not been elected bureau members such a thing would not have happened,” he told a news conference. “Nobody prevented them from continuing to work as ministers.”
“I regret but at the same time agree with their decision,” said Markarian. He added that their replacements will be chosen in the coming days by the separate Dashnaktsutyun leadership in Armenia.
None of the outgoing ministers could be immediately reached for comment.
In a speech that opened the Dashnaktsutyun congress last Wednesday, Markarian lashed out at opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian, saying that his post-election street protests were part of a Western plot to stage a “color revolution” in Armenia. He said the use of lethal force against Ter-Petrosian supporters protesting against the alleged falsification of the February 19 presidential election was therefore justified. He also said Dashnaktsutyun was right to remain part of a government which it strongly criticized during the election campaign.
The Iranian-born politician defended the speech on Tuesday. “We told the truth,” he said.
(Photolur photo: Hrant Markarian.)