YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Prime Minister Karen Karapetian has again indicated his desire to retain his post after the end of President Serzh Sarkisian’s tenure in April 2018.
In an interview with Austrian Public Radio published by the Mediamax news agency on Wednesday, Karapetian said that he is “ready” to stay on as prime minister in order to effect sweeping changes in Armenia.
“I would characterize my current readiness not as a penchant for power but as a desire to change many things in our country,” he said. “Many things should be changed in Armenia within the next five years,” he added.
Karapetian already made clear in December that he would like to continue occupying his current post after April 2018 if his government succeeds in improving the economic situation in Armenia.
Sarkisian has yet to clarify what he will do after the end of his decade-long presidency, which will be followed by Armenia’s transition to a parliamentary system of government. He has not publicly ruled out the possibility of becoming prime minister. Some analysts believe that Sarkisian may only stay on as chairman of the ruling Republican Party (HHK) and continue having a strong influence on the government in that capacity.
Karapetian, who is the HHK’s first deputy chairman, told journalists in Yerevan on Tuesday that he sees no preparations by the Armenian president, the country’s most powerful man, to take his place at the helm of the government next year.
Karapetian, 53, lived and worked in Russia for five years until he was appointed as prime minister in September last year. He held senior executive positions in Russian subsidiaries of the Gazprom energy giant.
Speaking to the Austrian radio station, the premier insisted that this fact does not mean he is dependent on or linked to Russia’s government. “Working in Gazprom, I built very good relationships and am friends with many people,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean that this company can damage Armenia’s national interests. On the contrary, it can help us find solutions in certain difficult situations.”
Gazprom, which owns Armenia’s gas distribution network, agreed to cut gas prices for Armenian households and corporate consumers shortly after Karapetian took office.