Government Reshuffle Begins With Several Resignations

YEREVAN (Reuters–RFE/RL)–Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darbinian and three presidential advisers resigned on Monday in a move that would pave the way for President Robert Kocharian to appoint one of the winners of last week’s parliamentary election to the post.

"Yes–he has resigned," Vahe Gabrielian–press secretary to the President Robert Kocharian–told Reuters.

Darbinian’s decision had been widely expected after the May 30 election–although the constitution does not stipulate that the premier must resign. The prime minister did not take part in the polls.

Gabrielian said Kocharian had not yet decided whether to accept Darbinian’s resignation.

"The matter will be decided in the next two days," he said.

Government sources said last week Kocharian was likely to name as prime minister influential Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan–who led his Unity bloc to victory in Armenia’s parliamentary election.

They said Kocharian had already asked Sargsyan to take up the post.

Kocharian told Reuters last week it was "entirely possible" that Sargsyan would head the government. If named–he will be Armenia’s seventh prime minister since independence in 1991.

Kocharian relieved three of his advisers of their duties on Monday in a move apparently influenced by the outcome of the May 30 parliamentary elections.

Kocharian’s press office said Armenian Revolutionary Federation leader Vahan Hovanessian quit his government job to head his party’s faction in the National Assembly. Under Armenian law–a parliament deputy can not hold any other post–reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The ARF and the Right and Accord bloc–will have third-largest factions when the new parliament convenes for its first session on Thursday.

Two other presidential advisers representing small pro-Kocharian parties–Aram Sargssian of the Democratic Party of Armenia and Harutiun Karapetian of the Ramkavar Azatakan party–resigned at their own request–according to the press service. Neither of the two parties polled enough votes to be represented in parliament.

The three politicians were appointed to the presidential administration one year ago after endorsing Kocharian’s successful bid for the Armenian presidency.

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