In what amounted to a vote of confidence, the Armenian parliament approved on Friday a policy program submitted by Prime Minister Karen Karapetian and his newly formed cabinet.
The National Assembly dominated by government loyalists backed the action plan by 85 votes to 7, with 6 abstentions, after a two-day debate.
“I want to assure you that we are conscious of the burden which we are going to have to carry,” Karapetian told lawmakers after the vote.
The 33-page document commits Karapetian’s cabinet to speeding up economic growth through a tougher fight against corruption, better tax administration and “equal conditions” for all businesses. It says that “conventional approaches” can longer address Armenia’s socioeconomic problems.
Opposition lawmakers dismissed these reform pledges during the debate. “We can’t support any government formed by the ruling party because [the experience of] the past years gives us no reason to do that,” Levon Zurabian, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), said before the vote of confidence.
Zurabian suggested that the recent government reshuffle was a ploy by President Serzh Sarkisian designed to “mitigate widespread popular discontent with and hatred of the authorities” ahead of the April 2017 parliamentary elections.
“We can’t share political responsibility for this program because we are not in government,” said Mikael Melkumian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force. Most BHK deputies boycotted the vote.
Deputies representing another opposition faction, Orinats Yerkir, abstained. As their leader, Heghine Bisharian, explained, they want to let the new cabinet “work” despite having misgivings about its declared objectives.
Predictably, the parliamentary factions of the ruling Republican Party and its junior coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), defended the cabinet. Dashnaktsutyun’s Aghvan Vartanian said its program can lay the groundwork for country’s “long-term development.”