Ministers at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, January 17, 2019

YEREVAN — President Armen Sarkissian has signed relevant decrees on Saturday appointing a number of Cabinet ministers for the new Armenian government lead by PM Nikol Pashinyan.

The ministers of defense, finance and foreign affairs as well as eight other members of the cabinet have been formally reappointed to their posts.

In another decree, Sarkissian appointed Zaruhi Batoyan as minister of labor and social affairs. She has served as a deputy minister in the same agency until now.

Batoyan, 39, is the first new minister in Pashinyan’s post-election cabinet. She is also its sole female member so far.

The cabinet members who have kept their jobs also include senior My Step figures such as Education Minister Arayik Harutiunian and Local Government Minister Suren Papikian as well as Justice Minister Artak Zeynalian. The latter is a leading member of a pro-Western bloc that challenged My Step in the December 9 elections.

The reappointed Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan, Finance Minister Atom Janjughazian and Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian are technocrats not affiliated with any party or bloc.

Two of Armenia’s three deputy prime minister, Tigran Avinian and Mher Grigorian, were reappointed last Wednesday.

Pashinyan indicated on Thursday he has still not made a final decision on the structure of his government. He said he will therefore name only two-thirds of his ministers for the time being.

In a live Facebook address aired the following day, the premier reaffirmed his intention to reduce the number of government ministries, saying that will make the executive branch more efficient and less susceptible to corruption. He specifically defended the widely anticipated closure of the Diaspora Ministry and the Culture Ministry’s merger with the Education Ministry.

Ever since he came to power in May Pashinyan has repeatedly pledged to downsize the state bureaucracy, saying that it is bloated and inefficient.

A tentative government bill circulated last month calls for reducing the number of ministries from 17 to 12. Some public administration experts question the wisdom of having fewer government ministries. They say that the new “super ministries” would only slow down the work of the state apparatus.

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