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Armenia’s new government: either to ride the wave or to plunge into turmoil?

Armenia’s new prime minister, Karen Karapetyan. Photo: verelq.am

Both resignation of Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan leaked two days before it took place and candidature of his successor were not a surprise. In the morning of September 8, Abrahamyan announced his resignation, and as early as that night President Serzh Sarsgyan submitted an only candidature for this post, first vice president of Gazprombank Karen Karapetyan.

Right after taking the post, Karen Karapetyan announced his intention to present Armenian economic strategy in the near future. According to him, it would consist of two major stages. The first will be a short one and include as soonest as possible reforms that would stir trust in the public. The second stage is to be a long-term one, it will comprise strategic vision of Armenia’s development. Thus, the authorities acknowledge that it does not enjoy public confidence now, which is very untypical of them.

Introducing the future prime minister, Sargsyan told his party members that Karapetyan is pretending to become “the symbol of changes” in Armenia and may “ride a big wave” that will bring the nation to new economic and political liberties.

However, optimism of the Armenian president is shared by only few in the country and abroad. There are no revolutionary expectations as next parliamentary elections are scheduled for seven months later. They promise to be landmark ones as the new authorities will be guided by the new constitution that defines the parliament as the supreme power, and prime minister’s post as the key one in managing all economic spheres. Does Sargsyan’s statement that is a kind of giving rein to Karapetyan mean that in case the Republican Party of Armenia wins the elections he will keep his post? In the current situation, this is the most vital issue.

Professional activities of the new prime minister make treating him with respect. Even governmental opponents call Karapetyan a technocrat with a good knowledge of economy, especially the energy sector. Experts hope that something positive may come out of his term.

For the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, hopes for something positive are of great significance. The country is suffering from high poverty level, negative migration dynamics and deeply-rooted social and economic apathy. It would be equal to a political suicide if one decides to start election campaign with such baggage. But President Sargsyan when introducing the new prime minister makes a note: “The new government of Armenia should not evade responsibility and should be open for criticism and cooperation: it should be sure in its goals.”

It looks like Karapetyan, by agreeing to rule the government in a pre-election campaign time, put a huge responsibility upon himself. He will not be able to improve the situation dramatically before the elections. And in case the election results are not positive, he will be not allowed looking for those to blame somewhere else, he will have to claim the whole responsibility for it. Although, it is evident that the Armenian people will be assessing at the elections (if they take place as scheduled) not results of the seven months of Karapetyan’s activities in the government, but the years-long rule of the Republican Party in general, President Serzh Sargsyan personally and his closest ally Hovik Abrahamyan who stepped aside. By the way, Abrahamyan is notorious among the people as an omnivorous oligarch-landowner, who is too far from being a reformist and caring for the people. So, it is not the time to speak of Karapetyan’s government responsibility. It will be even not after the parliamentary elections, but in two or three years. It is the ruling party, the former prime minister and acting president are to be charged for the current state of economy and the social crisis.

Yet, the process of shaping new government is launched. The media are guessing who of the ministers will remain in the government. Experts expect profound rotation of the government. This will be the proof that Karapetyan is given rein to conduct serious reforms, not a pre-election “facelifting” of the a priori incapable power system in Armenia. Depending on this, Karapetyan will either “ride the big wave” or fall from it into the turmoil of people’s disappointment and political collapse. Undoubtedly, in solving this complicated task, the prime minister may count upon traditional assistance of Russia, Armenia’s ally in the Eurasian Economic Union.

Viktor Yakubyan, an expert in South Caucasus, for EADaily

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