Kocharian Voids Prime Minister Decree on Powers

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–After successfully asserting his direct authority over the armed forces–at the weekend President Robert Kocharian repealed a 7-month-old government decision that gave Armenia’s prime minister exclusive right to make key appointmen’s in the ministries of defense–interior and national security.

The decision signed on August 18 by then prime minister Vazgen Sargsyan set the list of senior posts in the security agencies to be headed by his appointees. In a decree signed on Friday–Kocharian ruled that the move is unconstitutional and that it is the prerogative of the head of state to name the officials in question.

Earlier this month–Kocharian signed another decree whereby as a commander-in-chief of the Armenian armed forces–only he can appoint its top brass. The move was widely attributed to his ongoing power struggle with the current prime minister–Aram Sargsyan (Vazgen’s brother)–and the governing Unity bloc.

Unity leaders threatened to challenge it in the Constitutional Court but backed off when leaders of the allied Yerkrapah Union were promoted to higher posts in the defense ministry and the army a week later.

The reshuffle in the army command is believed to have strengthened positions of the embattled president. His latest step suggests that Kocharian is keen to keep the country’s security apparatus under his control. Also on Friday–he replaced one of the interior ministers.

A government spokesman refused to comment on Friday’s presidential decree–saying that the cabinet of Aram Sargsyan is closely examining the document.

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