President Serzh Sarkisian has nearly completed the formation of Armenia’s new government, appointing 17 of the 19 ministers that will serve under Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian.
Eight of the newly appointed ministers did not serve in the previous cabinet that stepped down following the unexpected April 3 resignation of Abrahamian’s predecessor, Tigran Sarkisian.
Three of them -- Finance Minister Gagik Khachatrian, Economy Minister Karen Chshmaritian, and Davit Harutiunian, the chief of the government staff who has a ministerial rank -- replaced reformist members of the former premier’s inner circle. Their commitment to the kind of economic reforms that are advocated by international lending institutions is a matter of contention.
Like Abrahamian, Chshmaritian, Harutiunian as well as Energy Minister Yervand Zakharian and Urban Development Minister Narek Sargsian held ministerial or other senior positions in the administration of former President Robert Kocharian. Some observers say President Sarkisian is thereby trying to ward off more challenges from the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force close to Kocharian.
Both the BHK and Kocharian have harshly criticized the government’s economic record in recent months.
The BHK has still not announced whether its 36 deputies will back a parliamentary vote of confidence in Abrahamian’s cabinet. The 131-member National Assembly is due to debate the government’s policy program next week. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) controls at least 70 seats in the parliament.
The other government newcomers are Environment Protection Minister Aramayis Grigorian, Health Minister Armen Muradian and Justice Minister Hovannes Manukian. The latter had headed Armenia’s Court of Cassation before being appointed as ambassador to neighboring Georgia in 2011.
Among the cabinet members who have kept their jobs are Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian.