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More Armenian Officials Join Ruling Party

The moves are regarded as a gesture of support for Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.

The moves are regarded as a gesture of support for Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.

YEREVAN -- Two ministers and seven other senior government officials close to Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian have recently applied for membership in the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief HHK spokesman, told RFE/RL that Finance Minister Tigran Davtian, Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsian, and the other officials would likely be handed membership cards during a November 28 congress of the party led by President Serzh Sarkisian.

He said the applicants include the chief of the prime minister's staff, one of his advisers, and Deputy Finance Minister Vartan Aramian.

None of the top officials has given any public explanations of their moves, which were announced shortly after Tigran Sarkisian formally joined the HHK on November 25.

Their decision to follow suit was described as "natural" by HHK Deputy Chairman Razmik Zohrabian, who said "the officials are on the prime minister's team."

Local observers regard the development as an expression of President Sarkisian's unwavering support for Prime Minister Sarkisian (no relation).

Some have speculated that the president is thus sending a clear message to parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian and other progovernment figures inside and outside the HHK allegedly trying to undercut the Armenian premier.

Also joining the HHK recently was Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian, another major supporter of the president.

The HHK has a clear majority in the National Assembly and controls most of the country's central and local government bodies.