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Hrayr Tovmasian, a former opposition member now serving as Armenia’s justice minister, on Friday defended his decision to join President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) less than two months before parliamentary elections.

Tovmasian insisted that he was not forced to apply for membership in the HHK and did not do that in hopes of retaining his post after the May 6 elections.

“I’m not the kind of person who can be compelled, and nobody would need a compelled party member anyway,” he told reporters. “My becoming a party member has nothing to do with whether or not I will be in the future government.”

But he did acknowledge a connection between his decision and the parliamentary race.

A constitutional law expert by training, Tovmasian was a senior member of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party in the past. Sarkisian’s decision to appoint him as justice minister in late 2010 therefore came as a surprise.

The 41-year-old minister said he agrees with the HHK’s main tenets and feels that joining the ruling party will give him “additional possibilities of having a say in political decisions that will also apply to my area of responsibility.”

“Key decisions and policies are determined by the political party that won a majority [in the parliament,]” said Tovmasian. “Therefore, I think you can’t remain a technocrat for long.”

Also joining the HHK this week was Finance Minister Vache Gabrielian, another key government member. Gabrielian previously held top positions in the Central Bank of Armenia and has no history of political activities.
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