Armenian Parliament Officially Approves New Government Program

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—In what amounted to a vote of confidence, on June 22, Armenia’s National Assembly (Parliament) formally approved a new policy program of Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan’s cabinet that promises faster economic growth and poverty reduction.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan addressing the National Assembly on June 22 (Photo: Press Office of the Government of Armenia)

The more than 100-page document commits the government to ensuring that the Armenian economy grows at an average annual rate of around five percent for the next five years. It says that this will cut Armenia’s poverty rate, which currently stands at around 30 percent, by 12 percentage points.

The document was debated by the National Assembly more than two months after Parliamentary Elections won by President Serge Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (RPA). Karapetyan’s cabinet was practically not reshuffled as a result of the April 2 vote.

“Speaking of the program, we have worked on it a lot… and know clearly what we have to do,” the Prime Minister told lawmakers remarks at end of the debate. He insisted that the program, which calls for wide-ranging reforms, will transform Armenia.

Karapetyan also rejected opposition criticism of his government’s plan of actions. “There are emotional evaluations that this program is not a step forward and will lead to stagnation, but they are not quite founded, in my opinion,” he said.

The parliament backed the action plan by 64 votes to 31.Voting against it were deputies representing businessman Gagik Tsarukyan’s bloc, the second largest parliamentary force, and another opposition group, the Yelk bloc.

Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Mikael Melkumyan, a senior Tsarukian bloc member, said that the Sarkisian administration has failed to achieve its socioeconomic objectives that were set in previous government programs. “If the previous programs failed, what is the guarantee that this one will not fail?” Melkumyan said.

Yelk’s Nikol Pashinyan said the nine lawmakers affiliated with his bloc will reject the proposed plan because it is “Serge Sarkisian’s and the RPA’s program.” Pashinyan claimed that the Armenian President is planning to become Prime Minister after completing his final term in April next year despite being chiefly responsible for “all of Armenia’s failures.”

Other Yelk parliamentarians also criticized the RPA’s reluctance to shed more light on Sarkisian’s political future. Answering their questions on June 21, Karapetyan reiterated that he is “ready” to remain Prime Minister after April 2018.

The ruling party’s parliamentary leader, Vahram Baghdasarian, denounced Yelk’s harsh criticism, saying that the opposition bloc itself cannot be sure that it will not fall apart next year. He also seemed to imply that Yelk’s young parliamentarians should now beware physical attacks by government loyalists.

The apparent threat prompted a furious reaction from Pashinyan, triggering a shouting match between the two men. The outspoken opposition leader went as far as to “remind” the HHK leadership of the fate of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania’s notorious Communist leader who was deposed and executed in 1989.

Source: Armenian Weekly
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