Armenia's Prime Minister reportedly to step down on September 8

By bne IntelliNews September 8, 2016

Armenia's ruling Republican Party is expected to discuss the resignation of Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan at a meeting on September 8, Reuters reported citing an unnamed source close to the government.  

Abrahamyan was appointed prime minister in 2014, replacing Tigran Sargsyan, who moved on to serve as the chairman of the Russia-led economic bloc Eurasian Economic Commission. He has ruled the country through a period of turmoil prompted by perceptions of mismanagement of national security and of key sectors of the economy, such as electric utilities.

In the most recent display of dissatisfaction with the current administration, on July 17, protests broke out in the Armenian capital city of Yerevan in which demonstrators expressed support for an armed group of veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war that attacked a police station, killing two and taking eight hostages. That Armenians would endorse such violent means of dissent demonstrates their disenchantment with the administration of President Serzh Sargsyan, with the government’s handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue just one of a long roster of grievances.

The police station attackers belonged to a group dubbed the Daredevils of Sassoun, which is believed to comprise thousands of members and is named after an Armenian epic tale from the Middle Ages. Upon occupying a police station in central Yerevan, the 20-odd attackers demanded the release of a radical opposition figure, Zhirayr Sefilian, who had been arrested at the end of June, as well as Sargsyan’s resignation and the formation of a caretaker government that would oversee the organisation of fresh elections.

Known for his criticism of the government, war veteran Sefilian has led opposition movements for two decades, decrying not just Yerevan’s willingness to compromise on the status of some of the regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh that are currently under occupation by ethnic Armenians, but also the high rate of unemployment in the country, poor housing, precarious healthcare facilities and corruption. He has chosen to maintain his “Founding Parliament” movement on the fringes of politics, however, claiming that the lack of transparency in the system would have prevented his movement from engaging in decision-making in the country.

While Abrahamyan and his cabinet have been accused of corruption, most of demonstrators' grievances have been against President Serzh Sargsyan, with whom the ultimate executive power rests in Armenia. As dissatisfaction with his administration has increased, Sargsyan has proceeded to dismiss the entire staff of key state agencies to placate tensions.

After the July hostage episode, Sargsyan vowed to form a "national unity government" within the following months that would provide greater distribution of political responsibilities.

Abrahamyan's successor is rumoured to be 53-year-old Karen Karapetyan, a long-serving executive that managed the Armenian branch of Russian gas giant Gazprom for over a decade. His brother Samvel is a well-known Russian billionaire of Armenian origins, whose Tashir Group conglomerate purchased the country's largest electric utility in 2015. 

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