Prime Minister Karen Karapetian dismissed on Tuesday lingering speculation that President Serzh Sarkisian is planning to become Armenia’s prime minister after serving out his final term next year.
Armenia will switch to the parliamentary system of government immediately after the end of Sarkisian’s decade-long presidency in April 2018. His political opponents and some political analysts claim that he is intent on holding on to power. The 62-year-old president has so far not publicly ruled out the possibility of becoming prime minister.
Karapetian was asked by a journalist whether he sees preparations by Sarkisian to take his place at the helm of the government. “No, I don’t,” he replied.
The premier also denied any rivalry between himself and the president. He insisted that they remain part of the same political “team.”
Sarkisian is the chairman and Karapetian the first deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that swept to a landslide victory in the April 2 parliamentary elections. Galust Sahakian, a senior HHK figure, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) shortly after the vote that Sarkisian has not yet informed his allies about his exact political plans.
In a March 25 speech delivered in Nagorno-Karabakh, Sarkisian said he would like to “play a role, in some capacity, in ensuring the security of our people” after April 2018. “I don’t know what that capacity will be, but I will definitely be of help in some format,” he said.
Karapetian has made no secret of his desire to retain his post next year if his government succeeds in improving the economic situation in Armenia. The former business executive has repeatedly promised to implement far-reaching economic reforms since Sarkisian appointed him as prime minister in September.
Karapetian defended his cabinet’s track record on Tuesday as he led official ceremonies in Yerevan to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. He said more time is needed for ordinary people to feel tangible improvements in their lives.
“Economic growth needs to reach a critical quality and quantity in order to make a real difference,” he told reporters. “Business reporters understand this, don’t they?”
The premier also stood by his pledges to attract large-scale investments in the struggling Armenian economy, including from wealthy Russian businesspeople of Armenian descent.