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Prime Minister Karen Karapetian may join the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) at its upcoming congress in Yerevan, a senior HHK lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Gagik Melikian at the same time insisted that Karapetian will not replace President Serzh Sarkisian as HHK chairman.

“The chairman of our party is President Serzh Sarkisian, who has been in active politics since the first days of our independence,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The party will always see him as its chairman.”

The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, said earlier this week that Sarkisian will continue to lead the ruling party for “many years” to come. Sharmazanov made this clear when he was asked whether the president will seek to become prime minister after completing his second and final term in 2018. Sarkisian himself has declined to rule out such a possibility.

Karapetian, 53, is a former business executive who is currently not affiliated with any party. The main official rationale for Sarkisian’s decision to appoint him as prime minister two months ago was to speed up economic reforms in Armenia.

“The next two or three years will see a breakthrough,” Sarkisian declared late last week. “I am sure that the lives of our citizens will improve day by day.”

Melikian claimed that such a “breakthrough” is already happening. He pointed to major policy changes announced by the newly reshuffled government.

Aram Manukian, a senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), dismissed the claim as “pre-election demagoguery.”

The HAK and other opposition groups say that the promised reforms are a mere ploy designed to improve the HHK’s chances of winning the next parliamentary elections slated for April.

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