Sarkisian Names New Chief of Staff

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Serzh Sarkisian appointed on Tuesday a leading member of his Republican Party of Armenia, Karen Karapetian, as his new chief of staff.

A member of the Armenian parliament since 1995, Karapetian was until now the leader of the largest National Assembly faction representing the Republican Party. The previous head of the presidential administration, Hovik Abrahamian, was elected parliament speaker on Monday as part of a leadership reshuffle reportedly engineered by Sarkisian months ago.

The appointment reflects Karapetian’s increased political clout and his close ties with the president. The veteran parliamentarian joined the Republican Party in 2006 and soon after became its deputy chairman as then Prime Minister Sarkisian completed his takeover of Armenia’s number one “party of power.” He has since been as seen one of Sarkisian’s most trusted allies.

Karapetian, 47, is also known for his conciliatory approach to the Armenian opposition. That might explain why, unlike other key pro-government figures, he has rarely been the target of verbal attacks from opposition leaders.

Karapetian made a point of sitting next to two arrested opposition parliamentarians when they were brought to the parliament floor to have their immunity from prosecution lifted by fellow lawmakers last March. The deputies, Miasnik Malkhasian and Hakob Hakobian, remain under arrest on controversial coup charges stemming from the March 1 deadly clashes in Yerevan between opposition protesters and security forces.

Karapetian’s businessman brother Samvel is one of the wealthiest members of Russia’s large Armenian community. Responding to Sarkisian’s recent appeal to Diaspora Armenian entrepreneurs, he has pledged to invest more than $200 million in infrastructure and business projects in Armenia.

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