Prime Minister Karen Karapetian said late on Monday that he would like to retain his post after the end of President Serzh Sarkisian’s tenure in 2018 if his government succeeds in improving the economic situation in Armenia.
Sarkisian has yet to clarify what he will do after completing his final presidential term and Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government. He has declined to rule out the possibility of becoming prime minister.
In a November 26 speech, Sarkisian made clear only that Karapetian will stay on as prime minister if his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) wins the parliamentary elections due in April.
“If our government, our team works effectively and if it is needed, I see myself as prime minister [after 2018,]” Karapetian told Armenian media.
“I didn’t come to work for six months,” said the premier appointed in September. “But at the same time, if we produce results, if our citizens, workers, scientists see that we are on the right track … we will try to work for a long time.”
He also said that he has not discussed the matter with Sarkisian. “Discussing that issue would amount to saying that I am not prepared to work for less than 3-4 years,” he said.
The main official rationale for Sarkisian’s decision to name Karapetian prime minister was to speed up economic growth and ease hardship in Armenia through faster reforms. The 53-year-old former business executive has repeatedly pledged to toughen the fight against corruption and create a level playing field for all businesses.
Nine of Armenia’s current 19 government ministers did not serve in the former cabinet headed by Hovik Abrahamian. Most of the newcomers are technocrats handpicked by Karapetian.
The premier defended his cabinet appointments. “I picked individuals with whom I had gone a long way, individuals who I’m sure will not use their posts for personal enrichment and business lobbying,” he said.
Armenian opposition lawmakers dismiss Karapetian’s reform agenda as a pre-election ploy. They say that the government reshuffle is only aimed at mitigating public discontent with Sarkisian’s administration ahead of the parliamentary elections.
Karapetian, who had long managed Armenian and Russian subsidiaries of Russia’s Gazprom giant, also defended on Monday Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). “Unfortunately, we don’t manufacture many goods that are competitive or recognizable in Europe,” he said. “After joining that club [EEU] we have an opportunity to operate in a 200 million-strong market.”
Karapetian went on to argue that membership in the EEU does not prevent Armenia from forging closer commercial links with the European Union. He said Armenia could become a “platform” for European companies seeking to bypass Western economic sanctions against Russia and retain access to the Russian market.