Agriculture Minister Gerasim Alaverdian on Wednesday brushed aside media speculation that his Orinats Yerkir Party plans to replace by him a controversial figure who joined it recently.
Reports in the Armenian press have claimed that Orinats Yerkir leader Artur Baghdasarian is ready to “sell” one of his party’s three ministerial portfolios. The name of Grigor Madatian, a businessman and former transport minister who joined the party recently, has figured in that context. Orinats Yerkir officials have denied those rumors.
“I also learned about that talk from the press,” Alaverdian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “There is no substance to it. The party is satisfied with my work.”
Madatian refused to comment when contacted by phone on Wednesday. He said he is not in Armenia at the moment.
Madatian, who is better known to the public as Khuchuch (Curly) Edo, had fled the country in late 2004 to avoid prosecution for allegedly masterminding what the authorities said was a failed attempt on the life of then President Robert Kocharian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. He returned home in August 2008 after the criminal case was dropped for still unknown reasons.
The controversial businessman, who lives and holds sway in Yerevan’s southern Erebuni district, is rumored to have promised Baghasarian to recruit 20,000 new members of Orinats Yerkir in time for the next parliamentary election due in 2012.
A government source claimed that Madatian has actually set his sights on the post of minister of transport and communication, currently held by Manuk Vartanian. The latter was appointed as minister four months ago.
“You can’t change your position once a month,” Vartanian told RFE/RL. “The party entrusted me with this job, the president appointed me [as minister] and I am trying to perform my duties in full.”