Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian rejected on Tuesday strong criticism of one of his key ministers voiced by Gagik Tsarukian, an influential businessman whose Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) is represented in his cabinet.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, Tsarukian attacked Trade and Economic Development Minister Nerses Yeritsian for stating recently that Armenia’s has emerged from the economic crisis. “He is not in the right position and he has no knowledge of the economy and the country’s economic situation,” said the tycoon.
Commenting on the stinging barb at one of his close associates, Sarkisian countered that “shortcomings” can be found in just about every Armenian ministry. “We must not engage in mutual recriminations and our unity must be our weapon,” the Tert.am news service quoted him as saying. “If there are shortcomings or failings in one or another ministry, our coalition partners should help us rectify them.”
“We must not breach the rules of ethics,” said the prime minister.
Yeritsian rebutted the criticism in stronger terms. “I would advise Gagik Tsarukian to evaluate the ministers affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party and their activities,” he said in a written statement. “As for my work, it shall be evaluated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia.”
The statement provoked an angry response from one senior BHK lawmaker. “Nerses Yeritsian should go a long way to earn the right to advise Gagik Tsarukian,” Naira Zohrabian told RFE/RL.
“I want to remind the minister that any official, be it a minister or deputy, must be evaluated by the people in the first instance,” she said. “And the people feel on their skin the results of economic policy which Nerses Yeritsian also pursues.”
Zohrabian went on to demand Yeritsian’s resignation. But she made clear that this is her “personal view.”
Like most of his fellow ministers, Yeritsian is a member of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Its power-sharing alliance with the BHK was marred last year by violent clashes between members of the two parties that took place ahead of the May municipal elections in Yerevan. The BHK subsequently accused the Republicans of tolerating no dissent within the city’s new municipal assembly.
“Gagik Tsarukian’s statement is an opinion which I think does not warrant a discussion,” Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, told RFE/RL. “He thinks that way, but we see no such problem yet. If we did, we would recall our minister.”