YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian has pledged to improve governance in Armenia in a way that will be “visible” to the population already in 2011.
“We are improving the state system, and it will function more effectively in the new year,” he said in his New Year’s address to the nation. “Changes will continue, and their results will be more visible.”
It is not clear if Sarkisian referred to a recent series of high-level personnel changes in his government. Four government ministers were dismissed or moved to different positions by presidential decrees in December.
One of them, Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian, was openly accused by the presidential administration and Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan of “inadequate” performance of his duties. Danielian is believed to have been fired for failing to promptly take disciplinary action against Mihran Poghosian, the head of the Service for the Mandatory Execution of Judicial Acts (SMEJA) who allegedly beat up one of his subordinates.
Poghosian has not faced prosecution and appears to have retained his job, a fact that has raised more questions about the real reason for Danielian’s ouster. The SMEJA chief, who reportedly has extensive business interests, has been accused by opposition representatives and media of buying votes for pro-government election candidates in the past.
Another cabinet member, Gerasim Alaverdian, quit late last month under pressure from his Orinats Yerkir Party, a junior partner in Armenia’s governing coalition. The Orinats Yerkir leadership attributed the move to a steep decline in agricultural output mainly resulting from poor weather.
Sargsyan appointed Alaverdian’s replacement, Sergo Karapetian, on December 31. Karapetian, 62, previously ran one of the country’s largest food-processing companies.
The ministerial changes followed the scandalous resignation of Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian. The latter was forced to step down after reportedly assaulting an official from the presidential protocol unit in a dispute over seating at the December 3 concert in Yerevan of Spanish tenor Placido Domingo.
In his televised address, Sarkisian said that 2011 will be “a year of consistent fight against hardened vices.” “And we must admit that there are many deficiencies indeed,” he said without elaborating.