The Yerevan newspaper “168 Zham” claimed last week that President Serzh Sarkisian (no relation) plans to sack the premier and replace him by parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian soon.
Abrahamian stoked the resulting speculation when he publicly questioned the Armenian government’s track record during parliamentary hearings last week. He complained that some of the government’s socioeconomic programs have not been implemented.
“I am familiar with only those speeches by Hovik Abrahamian in which he defends Armenia’s government and effective programs implemented by us,” Tigran Sarkisian told journalists when asked to comment on those remarks. “I haven’t heard of such a statement against the government.”
“I just approached Hovik Abrahamian with such a proposal [to become prime minister.] He once again refused,” he said jokingly.
“But seriously speaking, no prime minister has avoided such questions [about their future,]” added Sarkisian. “We should treat that very calmly.”
The prime minister acknowledged that “there are people in our team that criticize the government,” calling this fact a “natural phenomenon.” But he implied that he should not be held responsible for Armenia’s socioeconomic woes.
“Since when has the economic situation been bad? Did we prosper five years ago and get in trouble later on?” he asked.
Sarkisian further said that the existing situation results not only from the global economic crisis but also domestic “resistance to reforms.” He did not elaborate.
The former Central Bank governor has stressed the need for sweeping reforms in the country ever since he became prime minister three years ago. He has repeatedly pledged to improve the business environment, enforce fair business competition and crack down on widespread tax evasion. Critics say that these words have still not translated into meaningful action.
Visiting Brussels last month, Sarkisian said his government intends to speed up political and economic reforms that will put Armenia firmly on “the European path of development.” He urged the European Union to support him in that endeavor.