YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — President Serzh Sarkisian announced on Sunday his decision to appoint the influential parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian as Armenia’s new prime minister. He acknowledged that he had serious misgivings about Abrahamian’s candidacy.
Sarkisian made the announcement at an extraordinary meeting of the governing body of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the third such encounter held since the unexpected resignation on April 3 of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.
Under the Armenian constitution, Abrahamian has three weeks to form his cabinet and seek a vote of confidence from the National Assembly controlled by the HHK.
Addressing senior members of the ruling party, Sarkisian spoke of widespread “skepticisms” about Abrahamian’s candidacy. He said he has discussed it with the speaker “at length” in the last few days. Those misgivings, he explained, revolve around “relations with other political forces” and Abrahamian’s “perceptions by various social strata.”
“We spoke about all issues frankly and openly, and I received clear assurances from Mr. Abrahamian,” Sarkisian said in televised remarks publicized by his press office. “Mr. Abrahamian promised to very quickly dispel possible concerns within our ranks with his active steps, clear political messages … and, most importantly, tangible results of his work.”
“I am confident that everyone will very soon realize that the Republic of Armenia has a really effective prime minister,” he added.
The president appeared to allude to Abrahamian’s reputed ties to the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force increasingly challenging Sarkisian. The HHK-affiliated speaker is thought to have a close personal rapport with the BHK’s millionaire leader Gagik Tsarukian not least because of the fact that his son is married to one of the tycoon’s daughters. Observers have suggested that Sarkisian hopes Abrahamian’s appointment will put the brakes on the BHK’s growing cooperation with Armenia’s three main established opposition parties.
Tigran Sarkisian stepped down two days after the BHK and those parties agreed to stage three-day joint rallies later this month in support of their joint vote of no confidence in the government, which was due to be put forward in the parliament.