Gagik Beglarian, a controversial former mayor of Yerevan, has been reappointed to Armenia’s government as minister of transport and communications more than 18 months after being forced to resign because of reportedly violent conduct.
Beglarian stepped down as mayor in December 2010 after President Serzh Sarkisian effectively confirmed Beglarian’s involvement in an assault on an official at the presidential administration’s protocol unit.
According to media reports, the official, Aram Kandayan, incurred Beglarian’s ire after asking the latter’s wife not to sit next to the president during the November 2010 concert in Yerevan of Spanish tenor Placido Domingo. Such seats have traditionally been reserved for Armenia’s prime minister, parliament speaker and the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Beglarian, who did not attend the concert, allegedly drove Kandayan to one of his properties in Yerevan and beat up the young official there the next day. He was never prosecuted for what a presidential spokesman condemned as an “unacceptable and intolerable” behavior.
The ex-mayor, who is also a wealthy businessman, remained a senior member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). He was reelected to the HHK’s 20-member Executive Body during a party congress held in March.
Sarkisian appointed Beglarian as transport minister on Saturday as part of a cabinet reshuffle resulting from the May 6 parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian introduced him to senior officials at the Ministry of Transport and Communications on Monday.
“I want to congratulate Mr. Beglarian on his ministerial appointment and express confidence that he will manage to smoothly ensure continuity in the [ministry’s] work,” the premier said. “The projects that we have launched will be brought to a logical conclusion.”
Beglarian became Yerevan’s first elected mayor in more than a decade after leading the HHK to a landslide victory in disputed municipal elections held in May 2009. The 48-year-old, who is also known to many Armenians as “Black Gago,” had previously governed the Armenian capital’s central administrative district.
Beglarian has long held sway in a largely blue-collar section of the district notorious for election-related violence against opposition activists. Armenian opposition groups have long accused him of heading a local clan that rigs elections and bullies the government’s political opponents. Both Beglarian and the HHK have denied these allegations.