Armenian PM Margarian Dies at 55

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Prime Minister Andranik Margarian died Sunday of heart failure, government spokeswoman Meri Arutunian said. He was 55. Margarian had been prime minister since May 2000.. Under the Armenian political system, the prime minister has mostly executive powers and is a much less powerful figure than the president. Margarian, educated as a computer specialist, became active in opposition to the Soviet Union in the 1970s and was imprisoned for two years in that decade for espousing Armenian independence, according to his official biography. Margarian is survived by a wife, two daughters and a son. A state funeral commission tasked with organizing details, announced that a public funeral that will take place on Tuesday, March 27. Last tributes to Margarian will be paid at noon on Wednesday, March 28 at the Spendiarian Opera and Ballet Theater. He will be laid to rest in Yerevan’s Komitas Pantheon at 3PM that same day. In their letter of condolence to the country’s Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), which Margarian headed, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Armenia Supreme Body reflected on the cooperation the parties had entered within the last decade, especially with the formation of Armenia’s coalition government. "Andranik Margarian’s role was immense in this cooperation. We knew Andranik Margarian as a patriot" As dictated by the Constitution, the Armenian government resigned on March 26, to be reformed under a new premier. A new prime minister will be appointed within 10 days and a new government will be set up within 20 days. There is already speculation of who will likely succeed the 55-year-old Markarian, Armenia’s longest serving prime minister and president of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA). Most observers see Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian as the frontrunner for the post. The defense minister, who served as chairman of the board of the ruling Republican Party, was named the party’s acting chairman following Markarian’s death. In a March 26 statement, Armen Rustamian, a representative of the Supreme Council of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Party, a fellow member of Armenia’s ruling coalition with the Republican Party, affirmed that his party would support Sarkisian for prime minister, the Regnum news agency reported. "According to the 2003 agreement, the prime minister’s portfolio belongs to the RPA, and for this reason the head of the government must be a representative of the Republican Party," Rustamian said, in reference to the coalition formed following Armenia’s last parliamentary elections. "If the government decides to nominate Serge Sarkisian for this post, then the ARF will support this candidacy." Inside Republican Party headquarters, the atmosphere has been tense since Markarian’s death was announced. Flowers surround a photograph of the late prime minister placed in the center of the party’s office. In a televised speech to party members, Parliament Speaker and Republican Party Deputy Chairman Tigran Torosian called Markarian’s death "a huge loss for all of us." In commen’s to the government, Kocharian, who has no official party affiliation, appeared to echo those concerns. Markarian, he told cabinet members, "left us at a very crucial time, and as the authorities, we must provide the correct solutions for finding a way to get out of the current situation." Ordinary Yerevan residents, however, are split in their opinions. "I think Markarian’s death will cause big disturbances in the upcoming elections," commented 66-year-old pensioner Hakob Muradian. Other city residents disputed that view, saying that the event will bring no changes in the near future. A computer engineer by education, Markarian, a longtime Republican Party member, was named prime minister in May 2000, just months after the October 1999 assassination of Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, Parliamentary Speaker Karen Demirchian and several other senior officials. Prime Minister Markarian, who suffered from obesity and was a smoker, died from cardiac failure at his Yerevan apartment on March 25, at about 1.20 pm local time, according to official reports. A close friend of the late prime minister, who asked to remain anonymous, told EurasiaNet that Markarian’s health conditions had been deteriorating for the past several days. According to the source, a high fever, elevated blood pressure and a general sense of ill health had already prompted Markarian to cancel an earlier scheduled trip to France.

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