Armenia’s two main opposition parties continued to denounce the government on Tuesday for reducing the number of its ministries from 17 to 12 and refusing to limit Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s powers.
The Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Bright Armenia (LHK) parties reaffirmed their strong opposition to a government bill setting a new structure of Pashinian’s cabinet as the National Assembly debated it in the second reading.
The bill passed in the first reading last month calls for abolishing the post of first deputy prime minister, meaning that Pashinian would have only two deputies. Also, the Armenian ministries of education, culture, and sports and youth affairs would be turned into a single agency. A similar merger of the ministries of energy and local government would lead to the creation of a new Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures. The Diaspora Ministry is due to be scrapped altogether.
“This model of super ministries will definitely not work,” said Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK lawmaker. “If you merged the ministry of culture with tourism … I would see logic there. But there is no logic in this synthesis of science, education, sports, youth affairs and culture.”
Zohrabian also claimed that Pashinian’s political team lacks competent and skilled individuals capable of running the “monster agencies” that will be set up soon.
“We believe that this structure will have very bad consequences,” agreed BHK leader Edmon Marukian.
Marukian again singled out Pashinian’s refusal to turn Armenia’s police and National Security Service (NSS) into ministries subordinate to the cabinet, rather than only the prime minister.
Former President Serzh Sarkisian made sure that the police, the NSS as well as the State Revenue Committee will be directly accountable to the prime minister when he turned Armenia into a parliamentary republic. Sarkisian planned to stay in power as prime minister after serving out his second presidential term in April 2018.
Pashinian, Edmon Marukian and other leaders of the now defunct Yelk opposition alliance accused him of introducing a “super prime-ministerial” system of government with the aim of maintaining a tight grip on power. Pashinian has been reluctant to change that system since he came to power in May 2018.
“Why aren’t you fulfilling Nikol Pashinian’s promises?” Marukian asked parliament deputies from the ruling My Step bloc. “He had said that the NSS and the police must become ministries.”
My Step representatives say that such a change would only “politicize” the two law-enforcement agencies. One of them, Gayane Abrahamian, claimed on Tuesday that the heads of those agencies could “manipulate the political landscape” and abuse their powers if they become government ministers. She argued that Serzh Sarkisian rose to power after serving as minister of interior and national security in the 1990s.