Presidential Committee on Local Government Formed

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Noyan Tapan)–Presidential Advisor and Armenian Revolutionary Federation leader Vahan Hovanessian said on Tuesday he hopes the work of an ad hoc presidential commission which he chairs will result in a "decentralization" of government in Armenia–meaning more powers for local self-government bodies.

The commission was set up earlier this summer by President Robert Kocharian to come up with proposals on how to overhaul the system of local government. It is made up of senior officials from the central government–heads of several provincial and communal administrations.

Speaking to reporters–Hovanessian expressed hope that a "clash of viewpoints within the commission will give birth to a new path which will lead Armenia to a decentralization of government." He said the existing laws on local government "contradict and even have nothing to do with real life."

The present Armenian constitution divides the country into provinces and communities. Provincial administrations are appointed by the government–whereas the lower-level communities are run by elective executive and legislative bodies. According to Hovanessian–"the real power should be vested in elective local bodies," whereas provincial governors should act like "representatives and the eyes" of Yerevan–having "control functions only." He also said the commission should develop "mechanisms" for bolstering local self-rule. In his words–ensuring free and fair local elections is imperative.

The newly established presidential local government commission includes the following members: Deputy Minister of Health Samvel Hovhannissian; Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Youra Gasparian; Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection Simon Papian; Deputy Minister of Agriculture Khachik Gyumikian; Deputy Minister of Energy Karen Galstian; Deputy Minister of Education and Sciences Aida Topuzian; Deputy Minister of Culture–Youth Affairs and Sports Vahram Barseghian; Deputy Minister of Social Welfare David Hakobian; Deputy Minister of Statistics–State Register and Analysis Samvel Musoyan–Deputy Minister of Territorial Management Armen Khudaverdian; Deputy Minister of Transport Artur Avanian; Deputy Minister of Post and Telecommunications Robert Haroutiunian.

Also included were: The chief of the Department of Economy–Infrastructure and Agriculture Sirekan Ohanian and the chief of the Department for Social Issues Karen Hayrapetian. Institutions of local government are represented by the mayor of Spitak Souren Avetissian; National Assembly deputy and chairman of the Malatia-Sebastia community Vahan Zatikian; National Assembly deputy and mayor of Charentsavan Vardan Ayvazian; deputy mayor of Yerevan Kamo Areyan.

The president’s staff is represented by the chief of the local government oversight services Edik Zourabian; and Hovanessian’s staff official Bagrat Yesayan.

The composition of the committee was presented by the presidential advisor Tuesday’s briefing. He said that some changes are possible–in particular–some committee members recommend involving the deputy minister of finance and economy in the committee.

This proposal is expected to be considered by President Kocharian later this week.

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