The recently appointed governor of Armenia’s southern Ararat region on Tuesday denied his predecessor’s allegations that he has arbitrarily fired local government employees at the behest of the national police chief, Alik Sargsian.
The former governor, Vardges Hovakimian, has been at odds with Sargsian since a brawl last month that involved his son. He stepped down just days after the incident under what he described as pressure from the presidential administration in Yerevan.
Hovakimian claims that the police chief, who is a native of Ararat and governed the region until 2008, engineered his ouster by “fabricating” a criminal case against his son.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Hovakimian alleged on Tuesday that Sargsian ordered the new governor, Edik Barseghian, to get rid of local government officials sympathetic to him.
He argued that five of them, including three senior civil servants, quit the regional administration immediately after Barseghian’s appointment on July 14. “They summoned [the civil servants] and told them to quit,” said Hovakimian.
Barseghian brushed aside the claims, saying that the local officials tendered their resignations before he took over as Ararat governor. “I don’t even know them by face,” he told RFE/RL. “Listen, my dear, I’m not a local. Nor do I have any relatives here or want to bring anyone from Yerevan.”
Barseghian confirmed that Sargsian visited him the day after his appointment but insisted that he received no instructions from the police chief. “He just came to congratulate me and left three minutes later,” said the governor.
Under Armenian law, ministers and heads of other central and local government bodies can not fire civil servants at will. Their dismissal has to be sanctioned by the state Civil Service Council.
According to the chairman of the council, Manvel Badalian, Barseghian is technically not responsible for the resignations. “We didn’t register violations there,” he told RFE/RL. “I don’t want to defend Barseghian, but if there had been a personnel purge in the Ararat administration, we would have adopted a different position.”
Badalian did not exclude that the Ararat officials, among them the head of the regional finance department, were forced to quit. But he stressed that none of them lodged complaints to the Civil Service Council.