The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) dismissed on Thursday as a “fairly tale” President Serzh Sarkisian’s pledges to implement far-reaching reforms in the county.
Sarkisian reaffirmed those pledges on Wednesday during official ceremonies to mark the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. “Our country has now entered a new, accelerated period of reforms,” he said in a speech. “They are not mere personnel changes, as some people think. They are systemic changes as a result of which we will have a qualitatively new state.”
“I don’t believe it,” countered Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman. “They may rename, merge or split ministries, they may even sack some notorious oligarchs and replace them by people not known for abuses, but that won’t change anything.”
“How can we think that a political force that has mismanaged the state for 18 years could now do something good?” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “It’s a fairy tale and I don’t think many people will believe in it. The HAK does not believe in fairy tales.”
Sarkisian called for deeper economic and political reforms in Armenia when he announced on September 8 his decision to replace Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian by Karen Karapetian, a technocrat and longtime business executive. In particular, the president stressed the importance of improving the domestic business environment. Karapetian pledged to embark on such reforms when he formally took over as prime minister several days later.
Zurabian insisted that Karapetian and his new cabinet members will fail to break up economic monopolies, ensure fair competition or end the government’s privileged treatment of influential tycoons even if they are genuinely committed to effecting such changes. He claimed that the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) would block them because “it cannot commit suicide.”
Zurabian, whose party is headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, voiced the skepticism just over a week after the HHK reached a landmark agreement with the HAK and two other major opposition parties on the proper conduct of parliamentary elections due in April 2017. The deal hailed by the European Union calls for a set of concrete measures designed to prevent vote rigging.
Zurabian on Thursday stood by his view that the deal makes it “possible” for Armenians to change their government and “Armenia’s political system” through those elections.