Outgoing Prime Minister Karen Karapetian is “very likely” to serve as first deputy prime minister in Armenia’s new government that will be formed later this month, the ruling Republican Party (HHK) said on Tuesday.
“Karen Karapetian will continue to play a serious role in the government system,” the HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “It’s just that as has been the case until now, the leader and locomotive of that system will be [former President] Serzh Sarkisian, the head of the ruling party.”
Karapetian has been tipped to take up what will be the second most powerful position under Armenia’s new, parliamentary system of government since Sarkisian signaled last month his plans to hold on to power. The two men met on Saturday to discuss their political future two days before Sarkisian completed his second and final presidential term. The latter indicated that they will be Armenia’s two top leaders for the next four years.
Karapetian said on Monday that they decided to “propose” to the HHK to nominate Sarkisian for prime minister. He cited the need for a “smooth and effective transition to the new system of government.”
The Armenian parliament controlled by the HHK and its allies is due to vote on the new prime minister on April 17. Sharmazanov said the party’s governing body will discuss and field its candidate for the top government post by the end of this week.
Sarkisian appointed Karapetian as prime minister in September 2016 in the hope of speeding up sluggish economic growth through major reforms promised by the former business executive. Karapetian has since repeatedly expressed his desire to retain his post after Armenia is transformed into a parliamentary republic in April 2018.
Opposition leaders scoffed at the outgoing premier’s readiness to downgrade his nominal status. “I consider this a humiliation and deception of the Armenian people, including by [Karapetian,]” one of them, Raffi Hovannisian, told reporters. He argued that it was Karapetian, not Sarkisian, who led the HHK’s parliamentary election campaign in April 2017.
Another, more outspoken opposition figure, Nikol Pashinian, branded Karapetian a “servant” of Sarkisian. Pashinian will launch on Friday daily demonstrations in Yerevan aimed at preventing the ex-president from extending his rule.
Karapetian on Monday reaffirmed his declared commitment to “fundamental” reforms in the country.Armenian opposition groups have been highly skeptical about his ambitious reform agenda all along, however. They have questioned official statistics showing that Armenia’s economy grew by 7.5 percent last year.