Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan signed a decree to appoint former Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetyan as the country's new prime minister on September 13. Karapetyan is filling the vacancy left by the resignation of his predecessor Hovik Abrahamyan, who stepped down on September 8.
The government reshuffle is seen as an attempt by Sargsyan to deflect attention from his office to other state institutions amidst growing discontent with his administration. A hostage crisis and protests in July revealed the extent of the government's unpopularity, when people sided with a violent fringe group to decry the country's poor handling of a confrontation with Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as corruption and unemployment.
A former Gazprom executive and deputy energy minister, 53-year-old Karapetyan is largely well seen in Armenia despite his absence from the country in the last six years, which he spent in Russia. He inherits a volatile political situation and is looking at a short term of just seven months before the country holds parliamentary elections next April.
His tenure will be decisive for the ruling Republican Party's ambitions to win the elections in what will be a historical ballot for Armenia, one that will see the country switch from a semi-presidential governance system to a parliamentary one.
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