YEREVAN — The Armenian National Assembly voted 64 to 31 (with no abstentions) to approve new policy program of Prime Minister Karapetian’s cabinet that promises faster economic growth and poverty reduction. Voting against it were deputies representing businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s bloc, the second largest parliamentary force, and another opposition group, the Yelk alliance.
The more than 100-page document commits the government to ensuring that the Armenian economy grows at an average annual rate of around 5 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.
“Speaking of the program, we have worked on it a lot … and know clearly what we have to do,” the premier told lawmakers remarks at end of the debate. He insisted that the program, which calls for wide-ranging reforms, will transform Armenia.
Karapetian 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.
Deputy parliament speaker Mikael Melkumian, 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?” Melkumian said.
Yelk’s Nikol Pashinian said the 9 lawmakers affiliated with his bloc will reject the proposed plan because it is “Serzh Sarkisian’s and the Republican Party’s program.” Pashinian 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 deputies also pounced on the HHK’s reluctance to shed more light on Sarkisian’s political future. Answering their questions on Wednesday, Karapetian 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 Pashinian, 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.