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Armenian Prime Minister Joins Ruling Party

YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has become a member of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK's chief spokesman, said on November 17 that Sarkisian applied for party membership "several days ago" and that the application was swiftly approved by the party's top governing body, which is headed by President Serzh Sarkisian (no relation to the prime minister).

Sharmazanov told RFE/RL that the news should not be surprising since Tigran Sarkisian "represents President Sarkisian's political team."

Tigran Sarkisian had no party affiliation since he quit the National Democratic Union, a once influential opposition group, in the early 1990s.

He also served a nonpolitical position as governor of the central bank from 1998-2008.

Serzh Sarkisian named him prime minister shortly after taking office in April 2008.

The Armenian premier has not commented on his decision to join a party that has a clear majority in parliament and controls most of the country's central and local government bodies.

Representatives of the main Armenian opposition forces offered different opinions of the move.

Levon Zurabian, a leader of the Armenian National Congress, was particularly critical, saying: "I suppose that's a stage through which everyone in that criminal-oligarchic clan must go. So we congratulate Tigran Sarkisian on joining the mafia."