Prime Minister Karen Karapetian insisted that his government is committed to implementing “drastic” reforms in Armenia as he continued to lead the ruling Republican Party’s election campaign over the weekend.
“I don’t think that our reforms are not drastic and rapid,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) during a campaign trip to the southeastern Vayots Dzor province. “Just because you have a broad mental horizon doesn’t mean that you will start very late [in changing things.]”
Karapetian seemed to counter sweeping policy changes promised by opposition groups campaigning for the April 2 parliamentary elections. Former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, who co-heads an opposition alliance together with two other prominent politicians, said on Friday that Armenia needs the kind of “drastic and tough reforms” that were implemented in neighboring Georgia under former President Mikheil Saakashvili.
A former business executive, Karapetian came up with an ambitious reform agenda after he was appointed as prime minister in September. It is primarily focused on the country’s problematic business environment widely seen as a major obstacle to faster economic growth. The premier has repeatedly promised to put in place “equal conditions” for all businesses.
Despite being affiliated with the Republican Party (HHK) for less than four months ago, Karapetian is playing the central role in the HHK’s election campaign. Only two other senior HHK figures, Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian and Justice Minister Arpine Hovannisian, have regularly accompanied him on campaign trips so far. Like the premier, the 41-year-old Sargsian and the 33-year-old Hovannisian joined the party’s governing board, headed by President Serzh Sarkisian, in late November.
Karapetian campaigned in the Syunik province bordering Iran on Saturday and proceeded to Vayots Dzor on Sunday. Speaking at rallies held there, he stood by his pledges to attract $3.2 billion worth of business and infrastructure investments in the next few years. He reiterated that at least $830 million will likely be invested in Armenia this year.