YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Vazgen Manukian, a veteran politician heading an advisory state body, on Friday urged Karen Karapetian, Armenia’s incoming prime minister, to challenge government factions and government-linked business-people opposed to economic reforms.
President Serzh Sarkisian said late on Thursday that he expects the new government that will be formed by Karapetian to initiate “substantial” policy changes that would improve the investment climate and thereby ease socioeconomic hardship in the country. He said Karapetian is committed to such reforms.
Manukian said the new premier must “go against some government factions” if he is to succeed in his mission. “The government system is made up of different sections and interests, and the prime minister can introduce great changes by skillfully exploiting their differences and gaining public trust,” he said.
Manukian, who had served as Armenia’s first post-USSR prime minister from 1990-1991, also urged Karapetian to take on “oligarchs” controlling lucrative sectors of the Armenian economy thanks to their privileged treatment by the government.
“I don’t know whether or not he will manage to do that,” he said. “I hope he will.”
Throughout his two-year tenure, Karapetian’s outgoing predecessor, Hovik Abrahamian, pledged to implement the kind of reforms that were prioritized by Sarkisian at Thursday’s meeting of the leadership of the ruling Republican Party (HHK). But Abrahamian failed to radically improve Armenia’s problematic business environment.
Commenting on Abrahamian’s failure, Manukian said “He was more connected to the system. He was actually part of the system for many years, and even if he understood that he has to change something it was much harder for him to do that than for an outsider. An outsider has an advantage.”
Karapetian is an outsider, added the chairman of the Public Council, a body advising Sarkisian on major policy issues.
Karapetian, 53, has mainly lived in Russia for the past six years, holding senior executive positions in Russian subsidiaries of the Gazprom gas giant. He had managed Armenia’s Gazprom-controlled gas distribution network before serving as mayor of Yerevan from 2010-2011.