YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s office has confirmed the latest reports in the media about imminent “personnel changes” in the government.
But talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service late on Thursday, presidential spokesman Armen Arzumanian stopped short of providing details.
Arzumanian said information on the changes would be reported “in due time and manner”.
The confirmation came amid a flurry of reports posted on local news websites according to which several government ministers, namely Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsian, Agriculture Minister Gerasim Alaverdian and Environment Minister Aram Harutiunian, are likely to be dismissed from their posts soon.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Tigran Davtian is reportedly due to be appointed as Yeritsian’s successor, while Central Bank vice-governor Vache Gabrielian will succeed Davtian as minister.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s ruling Republican Party was considering its nomination for the mayoral post in capital Yerevan late on Thursday, on the eve of a scheduled vote in the city’s elected body expected to favor the national gas distribution company’s current chief executive.
In the past several days Armenian newspapers and news websites have been quoting “reliable sources” close to the leadership of the Republican Party of Armenia as saying that Armenian-Russian joint venture ArmRosGazprom CEO Karen Karapetian is likely to be preferred to acting mayor Taron Markarian as the party’s candidate for the top city post when Yerevan’s Council of Elders gathers to take a vote on Friday.
Markarian has acted as Yerevan’s mayor since the post’s previous holder, Gagik Beglarian, stepped down on December 8 in a scandal sparked by his reported beating of an official from the presidential administration.
Beglarian’s departure was followed by the sacking of Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian the next day for what the Armenian government described as a failure to punish one of his high-ranking subordinates allegedly involved in violent conduct.
The seemingly unrelated developments sparked widespread allegations about imminent sweeping changes in the government to be made by President Sarkisian.
Hours before the Republican Party’s final consultations on the possible mayoral candidate and other ‘personnel changes’, senior party member Galust Sahakian refrained from confirming the media reports that Karapetian would be the Republican candidate at the vote. He said he did not mean “to express a particular opinion not to fuel unnecessary speculation.”
Karapetian was fifth on the Republican official ticket during last year’s municipal elections, but he eventually preferred not to enter the 65-member Council of Elders now dominated by the party.
The meeting of the Republican executive body on Wednesday chaired by President Sarkisian, who is also the party’s leader, decided to call a meeting of the party’s board the next day to discuss the matter with a larger representation of top members.
Sahakian, who is deputy chairman of the Republican Party, confirmed that Beglarian remained a member of the party’s decision-making bodies despite opting out of the meeting. He also said the party was unlikely to pursue a further inquiry into the incident involving the former mayor or seek his prosecution, because the Republican Party “appreciates” Beglarian’s “subtle political decision” to resign.
“Especially as no complaint has been filed and no one knows what happened,” Sahakian added.
According to media reports partly confirmed by the presidential administration, Aram Kandayan, an official at the presidential administration’s protocol unit, incurred the ire of Beglarian after asking the latter’s wife not to sit next to President Sarkisian during the December 3 concert in Yerevan of world-famous Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, which would have been a breach of the official protocol that reserves such seats for Armenia’s prime minister, parliament speaker and the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Beglarian, who did not attend the concert, allegedly drove Kandayan to one of his properties in Yerevan and beat up the young official there the next day. Reports claimed that Sarkisian was infuriated by the incident and demanded an official apology from the mayor.