Acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian chaired what he called the final session of Armenia’s outgoing government on Thursday, telling its members to continue to “diligently” do their job until a new cabinet takes office.
“We are holding the last cabinet sitting in this composition, and I want to thank you all for cooperation and joint work,” he said. “It’s been a very interesting period. I suggest reporting to the public about what we have done in this period.”
“I want to address a last assignment and request to all my colleagues: we must fulfill our responsibilities diligently before the formation of a new government. The government officials must perform their duties regardless of emotion, just or unjust criticism,” added Karapetian.
The premier also noted: “We have not included fundamental issues such as socio-economic development, income tax reduction and health insurance [on the meeting’s agenda] so that the next government could decide whether to do that or not.”
The outgoing cabinet met the day after the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) effectively agreed to install Nikol Pashinian as the country’s next prime minister after nearly three weeks of nationwide anti-government protests organized by the opposition leader.
Karapetian has criticized Pashinian during the standoff that forced former President Serzh Sarkisian to resign one week after becoming prime minister on April 17. On April 28, he challenged the 42-year-old protest leader to come up with a comprehensive policy program in trying to get lawmakers to elect him Armenia’s new premier.
“We need to elect a program, not a person,” said Karapetian. “We need to elect a team.”
Pashinian has so far shed little light on the likely composition of his cabinet. He has said only that he will avoid “staff purges” once in office.
Karapetian unveiled an ambitious economic reform agenda after being appointed as prime minister in September 2016 by then President Sarkisian. His government’s policies have been praised by the International Monetary Fund.
Opposition politicians and other critics of the government have dismissed Karapetian’s stated reform efforts as a gimmick, however. They have also called into question official statistics showing that the Armenian economy grew by 7.5 percent last year after stagnating in 2016.
In its five-year policy program approved by the parliament last year, Karapetian’s government pledged to ensure continued robust growth by improving the investment climate, assisting export-oriented manufacturers and combatting corruption.
Karapetian, 54, was expected to remain in charge of the government’s economic policies when Sarkisian completed his second presidential term, became prime minister and named him first deputy premier. The end of Sarkisian’s decade-long presidency completed Armenia’s transition from a presidential to parliamentary system of government.