President Serzh Sarkisian has indicated that he will not make sweeping changes in Armenia’s government after winning a second term in office, saying that its economic record has been satisfactory so far.
Speaking to journalists on Monday evening, Sarkisian also revealed that his entourage anticipated an easier victory in the February 18 presidential election. He further said that the key problem facing the country is not government corruption or injustice but widespread public cynicism stoked by media critical of his administration.
“I can’t tell you now that the entire composition of the government will be changed,” he said. “What I will say is that today I see no reason for making cardinal changes. But that doesn’t mean that the government members are immune to such changes or that I’m giving them some privileges.”
The president argued that Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet succeeded in meeting a 7 percent economic growth target that was set by him in June last year. “I’m not saying that 7.2 percent [growth] is a great achievement but we must look at things in comparison. The rise in the average wage in Armenia exceeded inflation. Now do I have a moral right to summon that government and tell it to resign?” he told a news conference organized for a limited number of media outlets, including RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Sarkisian made clear at the same time that government members must ensure that the Armenian economy continues expanding by at least 7 percent annually in the next five years if they are to keep their jobs.
Sarkisian claimed to be satisfied with his performance in the disputed presidential election, while acknowledging his disappointment with his defeats in a number of major urban communities, notably Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri. But he insisted that he has no grudge against their residents and will make sure that the government pays more attention to their concerns.
Sarkisian also spoke of a “sense of dissatisfaction” among senior members of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) with the fact that he got only 58.5 percent of the vote in the February 18 election, according to its official results. He said they wrongly expected a more crushing victory over the main opposition candidate Raffi Hovannisian because of media speculation that vote will not be genuinely competitive.
“We got 44 percent [in the May 2012 parliamentary elections] and everyone was happy. We now have 58 percent but there seems to be some disappointment,” he said.
Hovannisian’s stronger-than-anticipated performance highlighted lingering socioeconomic hardship in the country and the fact that many Armenians feel that their government is mired in corruption and ensures privileged treatment for a small class of wealthy, government-connected individuals.
“The biggest problem of our country is not corrupt officials,” insisted Sarkisian. “The biggest problem of our country is not criminals. The biggest problem of country is a cynical atmosphere. That cynical atmosphere must be eliminated.”
Sarkisian complained in that regard that “people don’t see light and hope.” “Why? Because for many years at least two TV stations and dozens of print and online media outlets have been talking only about bad phenomena and only tarnishing everything,” he claimed.
“Our country is changing and he who has eyes will see that,” he said. “He who has eyes and a desire will see a lot. But he who doesn’t can say all day long that nothing has changed.”