President Serzh Sarkisian spoke about his readiness to work with all political parties and blocs represented in the new Armenian parliament as he addressed the legislative body during its inaugural session on Thursday.
The current National Assembly consisting of 105 members is dominated by Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that polled 49 percent in last month’s general elections and now controls 58 seats in the body. Together with its junior coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), that has 7 members in the body, the HHK also enjoys a constitutional majority. The alliance led by tycoon Gagik Tsarukian has 31 seats, while the opposition Yelk (Way Out) bloc of outspoken government critic Nikol Pashinian has 9 members in the new National Assembly.
In accordance with changes made in Armenia’s Constitution as a result of a 2015 referendum, the South Caucasus country will make a full transition to a parliamentary form of government in April 2018 when Sarkisian’s second and final term as president ends.
“We have put in place new constitutional structures and orders after a heated debate. The goal of these changes is to have a more balanced, effective, accountable and consolidated power. As to how we are successful in achieving this goal will largely depend on people in this chamber,” the Armenian president said.
Sarkisian also stressed the increased role of political parties in the public and political life of the country under the new Constitution. “We have stressed that shared ideology will be the main driving force for political parties. But as the head of state and leader of the largest political party I urge all political forces in the National Assembly, in selecting people or forming bodies working in the spheres of justice and law-enforcement, to be guided not by the principle of ‘he or she shares our ideology’, but by the principle of ‘he or she is a professional in this job’. Only with this approach can we ensure an effective system of justice,” he warned.
In his address, the Armenian leader also described injustice as one of the most dangerous “internal enemies” of Armenia “Today, we declare a new stage of war against injustice,” he said.
According to Sarkisian, despite the difference of opinions on a variety of issues that was clearly demonstrated during the election campaign, “these opinions, after all, lead to one idea – we must build a strong Armenia.”
He said that the activities of the future governments will be aimed at achieving this goal. “Therefore, I think it is very important to have long-term economic targets that will be not only the responsibility, but also a matter of honor for Armenian governments,” Sarkisian underscored.
He said that average annual GDP growth in Armenia should be considerably higher than the average expansion of global economy “so that the difference between the per capita GDP indexes of Armenia and developed countries get gradually reduced.”
Armenia’s GDP grew from about $2.25 billion in 1990 to over $10.5 billion in 2015, Sarkisian said. “In 2016-2040 we should ensure an average annual GDP growth of 5 percent and achieve a GDP level of over $57-60 billion,” the Armenian leader emphasized.
Remarkably, the Yelk lawmakers were not present in the chamber during Sarkisian’s speech. Aram Sargsian, a member of the opposition alliance’s faction, later told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), that this way they “boycotted Serzh Sarkisian and not the parliament.” “As a guarantor of free and fair elections the president failed to fulfill his duties, and that’s why we had to show our attitude,” he explained.
Under Armenian law, the government led by Karen Karapetian has resigned today as the new National Assembly formed after general elections convened. Later during the day President Sarkisian signed a decree reappointing Karapetian prime minister.