YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The People’s Party of Armenia–a member of the ruling coalition which is increasingly critical of its policies–suspected on Friday political motives behind the dismissal of one of its members from a senior government post. Ruben Tonoyan–a deputy minister of transport and communications–was relieved of his duties by a decree signed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. No official reasons for the sacking were given.
Tonoyan told RFE/RL that the sacking may be related to his political affiliation. Sources in the People’s Party leadership suggested a similar explanation–pointing in particular to the center-left party’s opposition to government plans to privatize the country’s electrical companies.
The party headed by the younger son of Armenia’s late parliament speaker Karen Demirchian–Stepan–voted last week against a bill allowing the cabinet to proceed with the sell-off–further distancing itself from its partner in the Unity bloc–the Markarian-led Republican Party.
The People’s Party is also said to be in talks with the opposition Right and Accord bloc over the possibility of forming a new opposition alliance. Two ministers in Markarian’s cabinet are either officially or unofficially affiliated with Demirchian’s party.
Tonoyan dismissed the suggestion that his removal might have been demanded by the Greek owners of the ArmenTel telecommunications company. He has in the past accused the management of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization of failure to respect the terms of its 1998 purchase of ArmenTel.