President Serzh Sarkisian formally appointed Karen Karapetian, a business executive and former Yerevan mayor, as Armenia’s prime minister on Tuesday.
Sarkisian announced Karapetian’s impending appointment at a September 8 meeting of the governing board of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The board met hours after Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s widely anticipated resignation.
All members of Abrahamian’s cabinet also tendered their resignations. But they will continue to perform their duties until Karapetian forms a new government in the next one or two weeks.
The new premier has still not made any public statements on his policy priorities or the composition of his cabinet. With the HHK holding a solid majority in the National Assembly, he will almost certainly receive a parliamentary vote of confidence.
The main official rationale for the government reshuffle is to speed up economic reforms. Sarkisian said at the HHK meeting that Karapetian has agreed to “lead a great wave of changes” that will address popular disaffection with the socioeconomic situation in the country. The president singled out the need to significantly improve the domestic business environment.
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov insisted on Tuesday that the new government will embark on such reforms. “The success of Karen Karapetian’s cabinet would mean a success for Armenia,” he said.
Media reports have listed Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian among cabinet members that will lose their posts. Nalbandian will reportedly be replaced by Vigen Sargsian, the chief of the presidential staff. Sargsian refused to comment on the speculation on Tuesday.
Citing an unnamed Armenian government source, the Interfax news agency reported at the weekend that Ohanian will become secretary general of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization. An Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman refused to confirm or deny that.
Karapetian, 53, has mainly lived in Russia for the past six years, holding senior executive positions in Russian subsidiaries of the Gazprom gas giant. He had managed Armenia’s Gazprom-controlled gas distribution network before serving as mayor of Yerevan from 2010-2011.