Two days before completing his second term in office, President Serzh Sarkisian made clear on Saturday he and the outgoing Prime Minister Karen Karapetian will bear "the burden of responsibility” for Armenia’s government for the next four years.
Meeting with Karapetian in the presidential palace, Sarkisian gave further indications that he will take over as Armenia’s prime minister later this month and thus remain the country’s most powerful man. He said he also envisages a key government role for Karapetian, praising the latter’s 18-month track record.
“Taking this opportunity, I want to thank you for the good job and friendship and want you to pass on my thanks to the members of the government,” Sarkisian said in televised remarks.
“We have worked together very well in this period but must also bear in mind that our party won a popular vote of confidence in the [April 2017] parliamentary elections and that the Republican Party (HHK) has a mandate to form a government until 2022,” he went on. “And that means the burden of responsibility for the country’s development will be on the Republican Party and us in the first instance: me, as the party’s chairman, and you, as the party’s first deputy chairman.
“Obviously, members of the party’s executive body, council and territorial chapters will bear responsibility, but I am talking here about personal responsibility. And we are certainly obliged to stay the course.”
“So we still have a lot to do,” he said, implying that the HHK leadership will formally nominate its candidate for prime minister next week.
The ruling party, which has a comfortable majority in the parliament, is widely expected to install Sarkisian as prime minister on April 17. Karapetian, for his part, is tipped to become first deputy prime minister chiefly responsible for the Armenian government’s economic policies.
Karapetian and all members of his cabinet will tender their resignations immediately after Armen Sarkissian, a businessman and diplomat who has lived in Britain for nearly three decades, is sworn in as Armenia’s new president on Monday. Sarkissian (no relation to Serzh) will have largely ceremonial powers due to the country’s switch to a parliamentary system of government.
Karapetian told Serzh Sarkisian that his cabinet has succeeded in achieving “all macro-objectives which were set up by you.” He said he looks forward to striving to meet “very ambitious” socioeconomic targets in the years ahead.
“That will certainly require hard and consistent work and audacity,” said the 54-year-old former business executive. “We do see the directions in which we should move forward. I think that very interesting times await us.”
“According to our forecasts, for the next three or four years we are going to achieve certain economic successes which will allow us to implement long-lasting, fundamental and profound reforms,” he declared.
Karapetian pledged to embark on such reforms after being appointed prime minister in September 2016. His government’s stated efforts to improve the domestic investment climate and tackle corruption have been praised by the International Monetary Fund but dismissed as a gimmick by the Armenian opposition. Opposition leaders have questioned official statistics showing that Armenia’s economy grew by 7.5 percent last year.
Opposition groups are even more critical of Sarkisian’s decade-long presidency, calling it a gross failure. They also accuse the outgoing president of breaking a 2014 pledge not to become prime minister in 2018. Some of them are planning to stage street protests next week against his apparent plans to extend his rule.