Government Resigns after Prime Minister’s Death

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s entire cabinet of ministers resigned on Monday due to the sudden death of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. The resignation was accepted by President Robert Kocharian during an emergency government meeting chaired by the head of state. A government statement cited Article 55 of the Armenian constitution which obligates the ruling cabinet to step down in case the post of prime minister becomes vacant. The statement said Kocharian instructed the ministers to continue to perform their duties "until the formation of a new government." Under the recently amended constitution, the president of the republic has to name a new prime minister, backed by the majority of parliament deputies, within the next ten days. The appointment must follow consultations with leaders of the parliamentary majority. Kocharian held such consultations immediately after the cabinet session. "Participants of the meeting stressed the importance of ensuring the continued regular and unfettered work of the executive authority," his office said without elaborating. Meanwhile, a special state commission tasked with organizing Markarian’s funeral announced that the deceased prime minister will be laid to rest in Yerevan’s Komitas Pantheon on Wednesday. In a separate decree, Kocharian declared Wednesday a day of national mourning. "We have lost a statesman, a colleague, a friend who headed the government for nearly seven years, and those seven years were the best years for our state," Kocharian told his ministers amid a growing outpouring sympathy for Markarian expressed by Armenia’s main pro-government and opposition groups. The government in Yerevan also continued to receive on Monday letters of condolences from foreign leaders, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The British embassy in Armenia’said it will fly its flags at half-mast on Wednesday as a sign of respect. The U.S. charg d’affaires in Yerevan, Anthony Godfrey, issued a statement on the occasion, describing Markarian as a "valuable partner of the United States."We honor Prime Minister Markarian’s lifelong contributions to Armenian life, from his work with the dissident National Unity Party during the 1960s and 1970s, through independent Armenia’s emergence from Soviet rule, and as the head of government since 2000," Godfrey said.

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