Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 76

Armenia’s newly elected President Robert Kocharian and his appointee, Prime Minister Armen Darbinian, installed yesterday a post-election government. Its foremost characteristics are the youth of the main ministers, a stated commitment to market reforms and non-affiliation with political parties. The cabinet of ministers includes eight professional economists out of a total of twenty-one ministers, ten of whom are holdovers from the previous government. Darbinian himself is a 33-year-old economic reformer (see profile in the Monitor, April 13; and see below for a profile of the new Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian.)

Eduard Sandoian, 36, hitherto a Central Bank official, succeeds Darbinian as minister of economics and finance. Kocharian and Darbinian yesterday mandated that ministry to coordinate other economic ministries and various economic sectors, functioning as “the government’s backbone” in the economic sphere. Vahram Hovanesian, 36, heads a newly created Ministry of Economic and Structural Reforms. Vladimir Movsisian, who successfully managed Kocharian’s presidential election campaign, retains his former portfolio as agriculture minister. For the first time since the restoration of independence, the government includes a representative of the historic Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutiun: He is Levon Mkrtchian as education and science minister.

The government’s main holdovers are Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, 39, and Internal Affairs and Security Minister Serge Sarkisian, 43. The two Sarkisians, who are not related, played a key role in engineering the election of President Levon Ter-Petrosian in 1996 and then in deposing him in February 1998 in favor of Kocharian. The two Sarkisians have thus emerged in the role of virtual king-makers in recent years in Armenia. Kocharian, whose popular mandate is less tainted than that of his predecessor, will almost certainly try to avoid becoming their protege. At the same time he does see eye-to-eye with them on the problem of Karabakh. Recent suggestions to divide Serge Sarkisian’s super-ministry have not been followed.

The government is due to submit its program within twenty days for parliamentary approval, which seems a formality. Parliament Chairman Hozrov Harutiunian moved to that post since February of this year as a Kocharian loyalist. He had until that moment served as chief adviser to Prime Minister Kocharian. The largest parliamentary grouping, Yerkrapah, is loyal to Vazgen Sarkisian. (Noyan-Tapan, Snark, April 20)