With less than five months to before Armenia’s next parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian announced on Thursday his decision to join President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).
Karapetian described the move as “logical” as he opened a weekly session of his cabinet in Yerevan.
“First, I was invited to take up the post of prime minister by the president of Armenia and the chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia, Serzh Sarkisian. Second, any government needs to have a political power base and our government has been, first and foremost, an HHK government,” he said, listing the main reasons for it.
Karapetian, 53, is a former business executive who has not been affiliated with any party until now. The main official rationale for Sarkisian’s decision to appoint him as prime minister in September was to speed up economic reforms in Armenia.
The premier reaffirmed that he was primarily tasked with “changing many things in our social and economic life.” He insisted that the HHK leadership fully supports his reform agenda.
The announcement came on the eve of an HHK congress in Yerevan which is expected to discuss the ruling party’s preparations for the parliamentary elections slated for April. The HHK has yet to clarify whether Karapetian will remain prime minister in case of its victory in the polls.
Nine of the 19 current government ministers did not serve in Armenia’s previous cabinet headed by Hovik Abrahamian. Most of them are technocrats handpicked by Karapetian.
Two of those cabinet members, Transport and Communications Minister Vahan Martirosian and Agriculture Minister Ignati Arakelian, told reporters after Thursday’s cabinet meeting that they too have applied for membership in the HHK. Both men insisted that they were not forced to do that.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK), a major opposition party, was quick to scoff at Karapetian’s decision to join the HHK. Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, called it a further indication that the Sarkisian administration is not serious about its promised reforms.
“The HHK is a corrupt swap which has its own rules … That system cannot tolerate any outside influences,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Karapetian is saying that he is ready to change things or that the Republican Party is ready to change things and change itself,” he said. “But we can only see one thing: the Republican Party doesn’t change, while everybody else does by being sucked into that swamp. This once again shows that any change in Armenia is possible only if we change the entire power base.”