Two ministers and seven other senior government officials close to Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian have applied for membership in the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), it emerged on Wednesday.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief HHK spokesman, told RFE/RL that Finance Minister Tigran Davtian, Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsian and the other officials will likely be handed membership cards during Saturday’s congress of the party led by President Serzh Sarkisian. He said the applicants include the chief of the prime minister’s staff, one of his advisers and Deputy Finance Minister Vartan Aramian.
None of the top officials has given any public explanations of their moves which were announced shortly after Tigran Sarkisian formally joined the HHK. Their decision to follow suit was described as “natural” by Razmik Zohrabian, a deputy chairman of the HHK. “The officials are in the prime minister’s team,” argued Zohrabian.
Local observers regard the development as an expression of President Sarkisian’s unwavering support for his reformist prime minister. Some have speculated that the head of state is thus sending a clear message to parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian and other pro-government figures in and outside the HHK allegedly trying to undercut the Armenian premier.
“You would not be mistaken to believe that if a person has a party affiliation he complies with the party’s decisions and if he has no affiliation he may act freely,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL. “Today there is a need [for the country’s leadership] to act like a united team. In that sense, the prime minister and perhaps some ministers should be party members.”
Also joining the HHK recently was Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian, another major presidential loyalist. Zohrabian confirmed reports that both Beglarian and Prime Minister Sarkisian will be elected to the party’s decision-making Executive Body at the upcoming congress.
The HHK has a clear majority in the National Assembly and controls most of the country’s central and local government bodies.