Kocharian Appoints Former Finance and Economy Minister Darbinian as New Prime Minister

YEREVAN (Reuters)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian on Friday appointed former finance and economy minister Armen Darbinian as his prime minister–the presidential press service said.

Darbinian–a 33-year-old economist–is known as a staunch supporter of continuing radical economic reforms and speeding up privatization in the impoverished Caucasus country.

Darbinian’s appointment had been widely expected and analysts said it sent a strong signal that market reforms would continue.

"He is a real reformer and pragmatist and it is a sign that we will have a liberal economy,” Bagrat Sadoyan–an analyst with the National Center for Strategic Analysis–told Reuters.

Darbinian had led the finance and economy ministry since May 1997 under former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan–who resigned in February. Under the constitution–Darbinian must now assemble a cabinet.

Darbinian’s appointment needs no approval from the 190-member parliament.

However–he must submit an economic program to the body 20 days after naming a cabinet. It then votes on a confidence motion in the government and its program. If rejected–Kocharian must name a new premier.

Political observers see little probability of that happening since parliament is dominated by Kocharian’s supporters.

Also on Friday–Kocharian nominated a former adviser–Alexander Harutiunyan–as his chief of staff.

Kocharian–43–was sworn in as the former Soviet republic’s second president on Thursday after winning a run-off election last month held to replace Ter-Petrosyan.

Both Turkey–the region’s biggest power–and its ethnically close neighbor Azerbaijan have imposed trade embargoes against Armenia–with which they share a long border.

Both Kocharian and Darbinian insist that while the Karabakh question affects the economy in some ways–Armenia could still develop normally without its resolution and the key to prosperity lies in carrying out more reforms.

Some analysts said that Darbinian had been chosen for his loyalty to Kocharian as much as for his economic expertise.

"He is not a strong or influential figure–and hence will not fully control the cabinet. Kocharian will remain the main director of the cabinet. It is a sign that there will be a highly coordinated government machine,” said Jakob Avitykyan–editor of the independent Azg daily newspaper. Darbinian headed a commercial trade company in the capital Yerevan from 1992 to 1994 after gaining a doctorate in economics at Moscow State University.

He worked as a deputy chairman of the Central Bank from 1994 to 1997–when he was appointed to head the finance and economy ministry. He speaks several foreign languages.

Darbinian called a Finance and Economy Ministry Board meeting on Friday. He expressed his gratitude to his partners for the work they carried out together and stressed the role of professionalism in the new stage of development Armenia is entering.

Darbinian reported that the new cabinet assignmen’s will be made public within the next ten days. And–by the end of the month–the cabinet will submit its agenda to the National Assembly.

In an interview with Armenpress–the Prime Minister said he will consult with Kocharian in making cabinet assignmen’s and that he will most value candidates’ professionalism.


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