Prime Minister Karen Karapetian assured on Friday senior foreign diplomats based in Yerevan that Armenia’s government is committed to holding democratic elections, combatting corruption and implementing far-reaching economic reforms.
Echoing statements by President Serzh Sarkisian, Karapetian said the Armenian parliamentary elections slated for April 2 should have a “fundamentally new quality.” “We stand ready to do everything to ensure that these elections are transparent,” he told the heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Armenia.
Late last year, the Armenian authorities enacted a set of opposition-backed legal amendments aimed at minimizing serious electoral fraud. The United States and the European Union welcomed those anti-fraud measures, promising millions of dollars in funding needed for their enforcement. The Western powers cautioned at the same time that the proper conduct of the vote primarily hinges of the political will of the Armenian authorities.
Karapetian also told the Yerevan-based Western, Russian and other foreign ambassadors that his cabinet formed in October will follow through on economic reforms promised by it. “The main economic objective is to create maximally equal, open and fair conditions for business,” he said. “In this regard, we have declared that we are going to make many changes and we ourselves must change first and foremost.”
As part of its plans to improve the domestic business climate, the premier said, the government will “simplify” tax and customs administration. He went on to promise “consistent steps” to reduce the scale of government corruption in Armenia.
“Without fighting against tax evasion and corruption … and creating a fair and transparent environment for business we will fail to achieve progress,” added Karapetian.
In its policy program approved by parliament in October, Karapetian’s cabinet likewise promised a tougher fight against corruption, better tax administration and “equal conditions” for all businesses.
Armenian opposition politicians have dismissed this reform agenda. They say that the government reshuffle is only aimed at mitigating public discontent with the authorities ahead of the elections.
Karapetian said on Thursday that international assistance is important to the success of the promised reforms and that the government is “open to advice, criticism and proposals” from Armenia’s foreign partners.
The prime minister answered questions from the foreign envoys after his opening remarks. A government statement on the meeting gave no details of the question-and-answer session.