President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday insisted that he did not force Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian to resign and pledged to significantly change the composition of Armenia’s government.
In his first public remarks on the unexpected resignation, he exposed his dissatisfaction with Tigran Sarkisian and members of the current cabinet, who must also step down in accordance with the Armenian constitution.
“The new government must be able to restore our citizens’ trust in reforms and its activities,” Sarkisian said at a meeting with senior officials from the Central Bank of Armenia. “I think there will be substantial changes in the new government. There is a need to take a fresh look at existing problems and areas.”
“I want to once again stress that the prime minister’s resignation was really a resignation, rather than [the result of] coercion,” added the president. Echoing statements by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), he also said that Tigran Sarkisian first tendered his resignation a month ago but that he asked the premier to stay on for now.
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov insisted as recently as on March 27 that a change of the prime minister or the government is “not on our agenda.”
The resignation was announced late on Thursday following a meeting of the HHK leadership chaired by the head of state. Neither the ruling party nor Tigran Sarkisian gave any clear reason for the move. Serzh Sarkisian also did not shed light on it, implying only that it is not connected with a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the government sought by the Armenian opposition.
Two members of the outgoing cabinet, Education Minister Armen Ashotian and Economy Minister Vahram Avanesian, admitted on Friday that Tigran Sarkisian’s exit took them by surprise.
Speaking at the Central Bank, President Sarkisian also paid tribute to the man who has headed his government for the past six years. “Six years is a long time for a prime minister,” he said. “It is the most difficult, grueling and, maybe I’m not using the right word, thankless work. I occupied that position for a very short time [from 2007-2008,] but even that was enough for me to feel the strain. Unfortunately, this is the situation we are in.”
Under the constitution, Sarkisian has to appoint the next prime minister by April 14. The latter will have three weeks to form his cabinet and seek its endorsement by the parliament. The president gave no indications as to who Tigran Sarkisian’s successor will be.