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Armenia: New PM Appointed

Armenia appears to be settling down to a time of change -- via both the appointment of a new prime minister and, now, potentially, a new influx of refugees from Syria.

On April 13, President Serzh Sargsyan named 56-year-old Parliamentary Speaker Hovik Abrahamian, as Armenia's new prime minister. He replaces Tigran Sarkisian, who resigned on April 3 for unclear reasons.

Abrahamian, a former cognac-wine-and-brandy businessman-turned-politician, told parliament during his April 14 introduction by Sargsyan that he did not have a "clear vision" yet of the makeup of his cabinet. He has 20 days to decide.

One parliamentarian from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), however, has said that the government's goals will not change, even if the methods for attaining them do. To get a deeper line on Abrahamian, an Ararat-region villager by birth, one Armenian outlet, Epress.am, turned to leaked US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks. The assortment may not raise optimism about chances for reform under an Abrahamian cabinet.

A 2008 cable from US Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch described Abrahamian, a senior RPA official, as representative of "the type of Republican politician that makes up a large chunk of the parliament and of the ruling party establishment: politico-oligarchs who use political power to advance their business interests and vice versa."

A cable from US Chargé d'Affaires Joseph Pennington that same year noted, though, that, despite his image to outsiders as "a crass nouveau riche," the parliamentary speaker had the reputation of a can-do politician, and effective deal-maker. He predicted that Abrahamian, a hard-nosed operator, could become prime minister and president. ". . . [H]e should not be underestimated," Pennington wrote, according to WikiLeaks.

That may be good news to ethnic Armenians from the embattled Syrian town of Kessab who may be increasingly looking to Armenia now to take them in. Two have arrived since late March.

Abrahamian as parliamentary speaker took an active interest in Kesab's fortunes, and had called for parliament to hold discussions on Armenia's response. (He ruled out any attempt at intervention by Armenia in the war itself.)

Cash-strapped Armenia, already building a New Aleppo, has struggled to provide housing and aid for its Syrian Diaspora, descendants of survivors of Ottoman Turkey's World-War-I-era massacres of ethnic Armenians, and is looking at fresh challenges as the war rages through Armenian-populated areas. More refugees are expected, Diaspora officials say. 

Armenia: New PM Appointed

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