Armenia’s new cabinet to be formed after the expected resignation of the current government next month will not include a key ministry set up shortly before the country’s formal accession to a Russian-led trade bloc in 2015, it transpired during the debate on adjustments in the government structure in parliament on Tuesday.
Under proposed changes the Ministry of International Economic Integration and Reform will be abolished and the institution of three deputy premiers, including the first vice premier, each having his or her own apparatus, will be introduced.
Justice Minister David Harutiunian, who presented the bill, said the changes were conditioned by the country’s transition to the parliamentary form of government that required synchronization of the legislation with the new Constitution.
He did not specify why the ministry that was deemed important in view of Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union and also coordinated the government’s policies in the field of foreign economic relations in general was not included in the structure of the next government to be formed after Armenia completes its transition to the parliamentary form of government with the end of the current president’s term on April 9.
Harutiunian only said that the structure of the government is always a “matter of political expedience.”
“There are countries that have only seven ministries. And there are countries that have as many as 60 ministries. In every case it is the government that decides what ministries it should have and it presents this decision to the National Assembly [for approval],” the minister explained.
Under the proposed changes the Police and the National Security Service, which are currently bodies affiliated with the government, will directly report to the next prime minister.
Armenian opposition members fear this move will consolidate power in the hands of the prime minister and will even put him in a position where he may be beyond the reach of justice.
Opposition Yelk faction member Gevorg Gorgisian raised the issue during the parliamentary debate today. “What if the prime minister commits, for example, high treason or what if questions arise about his being compatible with his office, what structure should investigate this then?... Don’t you think that there may be a conflict of interests here?” he queried.
Justice Minister Harutiunian said that there is the Prosecutor’s Office for such investigations. He added: “There are countries where the Prosecutor’s Office is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice, but it does not mean that the Prosecutor’s Office is in any way dependant on the Ministry of Justice. Subordination does not mean that proper functional independence is not ensured by the law. And in this case the matter should concern exactly functional independence.”