By Emil Danielyan
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian assured a group of newly appointed senior government officials of their independence on Tuesday as they were sworn in under a controversial Armenian law on civil service.
More than 30 chiefs of staff of various ministries, provincial administrations and other government agencies, selected last month on a competitive basis, solemnly vowed to respect Armenia’s constitution and laws.
“You are going to be the most protected officials,” Markarian said in a speech at the official ceremony. “Your rights and obligations are clear. A lot will depend on how you will help the country’s political leadership realize its programs.” Armenian civil servants will now be protected against arbitrary dismissals and will not have to side with ruling regimes, Markarian claimed.
Independence of the state bureaucracy was the main stated rationale for the passage last year of the law on civil service. A special council formed by President Robert Kocharian in January is empowered to select staff for most government agencies and regularly check the professional fitness of government officials.
The first competition for vacant government posts took place in early October. The staff chiefs were selected a month later.
The passage of the law had for months been blocked by opposition factions in the parliament who argued that the civil service body can not be independent and impartial because it is appointed by Kocharian. They still claim that the provision is unconstitutional and call into question the fairness of the ongoing staff hires.