Friday, June 06, 2008

Parliament Resignation Fuels Talk Of Speaker Change

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 06/05/2008
By Ruzanna Khachatrian

A pro-government member of the National Assembly resigned on Thursday, adding to speculation that his influential brother, who manages President Serzh Sarkisian's staff, is set to become the new speaker of the Armenian parliament.

Hovik Abrahamian, the chief of the presidential administration who previously served as Armenia's deputy prime minister, has been linked with the post for the past few weeks.

Reports in the Armenian press have claimed Sarkisian has already decided to replace the current parliament speaker, Tigran Torosian. According to them, Abrahamian, who is not a parliament deputy, will be named in Torosian's place after securing a parliament seat currently held by his brother Henrik.

The latter was elected to the National Assembly from a constituency encompassing the southern town of Artashat and nearby villages. The area is widely considered to be a de facto fiefdom of the Abrahamians.

They are both senior members of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) headed by Sarkisian. Hovik Abrahamian was the campaign manager of the HHK and Sarkisian in the last presidential and parliamentary elections.

Henrik Abrahamian gave no reason for his decision to tender his resignation which was announced by the parliament's press service. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

A spokesman for the HHK, Eduard Sharmazanov, pointedly declined to refute speculation that the move is part of Torosian's imminent replacement by Abrahamian. `There has been no discussion of a change of National Assembly president or Mr. Abrahamian becoming the next parliament speaker within the Republican Party as yet,' he told reporters.

Asked whether such a discussion could take place, Sharmazanov said, `I can't make predications.'

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