Arsen Torosian was named to manage the prime minister’s staff on January 18. He previously served as Armenia’s health minister.
Torosian was replaced by Arayik Harutiunian, a senior adviser to Pashinian and a former education minister. Both men are leading members of Civil Contract.
Pashinian introduced Harutiunian to his staff later in the day. Commenting on what was the first major personnel change made by him since his Civil Contract party’s victory in the June 20 parliamentary elections, he said Torosian asked to be allowed to take up one of the ruling party’s 71 seats in Armenia’s new 107-member parliament.
Pashinian also cited the need to increase the “efficiency of governance” in the country. “The quality of governance starts from the prime minister’s staff,” he said.
Pashinian should technically form a new cabinet and receive a vote of confidence from the National Assembly later this summer. Neither he nor his political allies have indicated so far whether he will replace many of his current ministers.
Pashinian sacked seven ministers in a cabinet reshuffle announced by him in the aftermath of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire in November.
Armen Khachatrian, a pro-government member of Armenia’s outgoing parliament, said on Thursday that he does not know whether the new cabinet will be significantly different from the current one. He said he hopes that Pashinian will pick more technocrats.
“I think that professionals must be chosen … for a number of spheres,” Khachatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “As regards the question of who they have supported and what they have done, it must not matter at all.”
Khachatrian asserted at the same time that Pashinian’s staffing policy has been too “tolerant” until now.
Sofia Hovsepian, one of several lawmakers who defected from Pashinian’s team late last year, was skeptical about the composition of the new cabinet and its competence. “They don’t get rid of failed officials,” she told reporters.
Hovsepian said that instead of appointing “capable individuals” to senior positions Pashinian is planning a purge of civil servants and other state officials who have not pledged allegiance to him. She said Torosian’s replacement by another Pashinian ally suggests that the prime minister has not learned any lessons from his mistakes.
The secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigorian, claimed earlier this week that Pashinian’s party received a popular mandate to carry out such a purge. “The state apparatus … must unequivocally serve the victorious [political] force,” he told Armenian Public Television.