Armenian Opposition Leader Offered Top Government Job

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Officials in one of Armenia’s largest opposition parties confirmed reports Tuesday that one of its leaders has been offered an important position in the administration of President Robert Kocharian. Officials in the headquarters of the center-right National Democratic Union told RFE/RL that David Vartanian–a senior NDU member–has received a surprising offer to take over as chief of the presidential Oversight Service.

They said Kocharian made the proposition directly to Vartanian on several occasions. It remains unclear what the party’s official position is on Vartanian’s possible acceptance of the offer. An NDU official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the party’s ruling board has already discussed the issue and made no decision barring Vartanian from joining the government ran’s.

The NDU is among the few Armenian parties remaining in opposition to Kocharian. The party claims that the presidential election last March–which Kocharian won according to official results–was not free and fair. The party’s chairman–defeated presidential candidate Vazken Manoukian–refused to comment–promising to make a statement within several days. It was impossible to contact Vartanian–who was absent from the NDU headquarters.

Meanwhile–the presidential press service refused to either confirm or deny the reports. A spokeswoman for Kocharian told RFE/RL that no presidential decrees were expected Tuesday. Vartanian’s appointment–if made–will be part of Kocharian’s broader policy of winning over the country’s main (formerly opposition) political groups by inviting their members to the government. Two other parties–the Armenian Revolutionary Party and Self-Determination Union–are already represented on the presidential staff. The oversight service is charged with ensuring the implementation of laws and presidential decrees.

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