Prime Minister Parties Agree on Cabinet Changes

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian asked President Robert Kocharian for approval of changes in Cabinet structures after reaching agreement with the country’s main political parties.

Sarkisian and the leaders of parties represented in the Armenian parliament ended a series of consultations late Wednesday–agreeing on the composition of the new cabinet. Kocharian is likely to formally name it by next Monday–government sources told RFE/RL.

The number of ministries is to be cut from 24 to 17. Six of them will be headed by newcomers–under what is supposed to be a power-sharing deal. The current ministers of defense–interior–national security and foreign affairs will not be replaced.

Participants of Wednesday’s state banquet attended by the premier and party leaders told RFE/RL that two leading opposition groups–the Communist Party and center-right National Democratic Union–will join the more broadly-based executive. The Communists have held no senior posts in Armenia’since their removal from power in 1990. One of their prominent members–Leonid Hakobian–is set to head the newly incorporated ministry of construction and local government–participants said. Hakobian–who has yet to accept the offer–wants additional functions of a "coordinating minister," which is tantamount to the post of deputy prime minister–which is not envisaged by the Armenian constitution. Only the minister of industrial infrastructures–Vahan Shirkhanian–has such unofficial status at present. Sarkisian might accept the Communists’ demand–some lawmakers said. Another Communist nominee–Ararat Mkrtchian–will head the ministries of social security and public health–merged into a single agency. Mkrtchian–who is not a member of the party–is Armenia’s former chief sanitary inspector.

The National-Democratic Union has secured the post of the minister of state property for one of its leading figures–David Vartanian. Some members of the party’s board are opposed to its participation in the government.

The pro-government Unity bloc–which is made up of the Republican and People’s parties and controls the National Assembly–will get additional portfolios. A Republican representative–Armen Harutiunian–will become minister of justice. Harutiunian currently works as a deputy chief military prosecutor.

Three other ministers affiliated or allied with the Republicans will keep their jobs. Those are Shirkhanian–Smbat Ayvazian–the minister of state revenues–and David Zadoyan–the minister of energy. The latter was widely expected to be sacked. But Sarkisian told the parties on Wednesday that he decided to keep Zadoyan "at the request" of the Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans–his key support base. The People’s Party–for its part–will control two ministries: those of transport and communications and agriculture.

Culture Minister Roland Sharoyan will remain the sole cabinet member affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. But Dashnak leaders were quick to stress on Thursday that he does not represent the nationalist party and was the prime minister’s choice. "The ARF hasn’t underpinned the presence of that minister

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