The head of a body overseeing Armenia’s state bureaucracy on Thursday accused government ministers of aggressively pushing patronage appointments of new civil servants affiliated with their respective political parties.
Manvel Badalian, chairman of the State Council on Civil Service, charged that the three parties making up the country’s ruling coalition are keen to place their members and loyalists in various government agencies in violation of an Armenian law adopted in 2002.
The law mandates the selection of ministry personnel and other civil servants on a solely competitive basis that takes into account their professional qualifications, rather than political views or affiliations. Badalian’s council, formed by the president of the republic, is tasked with holding relevant job contests, evaluating civil servants’ performance and protecting them against arbitrary dismissal.
Speaking at a weekly meeting of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet, Badalian angrily complained about unnamed ministers who he said are guided by partisanship and other “subjective approaches” in advocating various personnel appointments.
“Our parties seem to be becoming employment centers,” he said. “Because of them, many civil servants now carry different party membership cards in their pockets.”
“Perhaps I am being a bit emotional but this is the reality. We will regret these phenomena tomorrow,” the official warned, demanding that the government “put an end to this arbitrary and subjective practice which has become more widespread lately.”
“You know better than I what’s going on, the candidates who are proposed to you and whom you are trying to push at any cost,” Badalian told ministers. He declined to name any official allegedly involved in the practice, however. Nor did he specify how many patronage appointments have been blocked by the State Council on Civil Service.
Sarkisian, who is affiliated with the main governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), seemed to take the extraordinary criticism seriously, urging the council to make full use of its legal powers in ensuring the integrity of the selection process. “We are expressing our support to the success of your mission,” he told Badalian.
None of several ministers interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian service after the cabinet session admitted lobbying for fellow party members or other loyalists seeking civil service positions. Armen Ashotian, a senior HHK figure who was appointed as education minister last year, said: “There have been no media reports on such practices in our ministry in the past year.”
“This is an unknown issue to me,” said Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosian, who has no party affiliation. Both Poghosian and Ashotian made clear at the same time that they find Badalian’s concerns justified.