Armenia: Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan resigns

Hovik Abrahamyan steps down after two years following series of protests and a sharp economic downturn.

    Armenia: Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan resigns
    President Serzh Sarkisyan had promised to reshuffle his cabinet in the wake of a hostage crisis [EPA]

    Armenia's Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan has announced his resignation, saying the country needs a "new approach" after an economic downturn and weeks of violent protests.

    His move, widely expected following a protracted hostage crisis that highlighted public discontent, paves the way for the cabinet to resign and the president to appoint a new prime minister after consultations with parliament.

    Two-week standoff ends in Armenia as gunmen surrender

    "I decided to step down so that the president can form a new government," Abrahamyan, 58, told a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

    "We need a new approach, a new start."

    Abrahamyan "will be replaced by the former Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetyan", a top government official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

    A former parliamentary speaker and an economist by training, Abrahamyan was appointed prime minister two years ago.

    In 2015 Armenia's economy started to deteriorate - economic growth slowed to 3 percent in 2015, from 3.5 percent in 2014, and below the government's growth forecast of 4.1 percent. 

    Some 30 percent of the population lives below the official poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank.

    INSIDE STORY: Can tension in Armenia be contained?

    President Serzh Sarkisyan had promised to reshuffle his cabinet in the wake of the hostage crisis that rocked the country in July.

    A group of anti-government gunmen seized a police building in Yerevan for two weeks, killing two police and taking several high-ranking officers hostage. After clashes and lengthy negotiations they surrendered on July 31.

    The standoff sparked anti-government demonstrations over the authorities' perceived mishandling of the crisis and demands for Sarkisyan's resignation over failures to improve living standards in the country.

    More than 70 people, including journalists, were wounded in clashes at the demonstrations and dozens were arrested.

    Sarkisyan pledged in early August to introduce a government of "national reconciliation", saying that it would take months to get a new team together.

    Experts say the new government is likely to be temporary and the final configuration will emerge only after the 2017 parliamentary election and the end of Sarkisyan's second term in 2018, when the full transition from the semi-presidential form of government to a parliamentary republic will be completed.

    SOURCE: News Agencies


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