Prime Minister of Armenia Resigns after Six Years

By Gayane Mkrtchyan
YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow reporter) — Tigran Sargisian, Armenia’s 11th prime minister, who resigned Thursday, April 3, is one of the rare leaders of the executive who appeared in the top echelons of power as a technocratic character espousing European ideas and standing out for his world outlook.

The 54-year-old, appointed to the position in April 2008 after a decade of work as the Central Bank chairman, is active in online social networks, has appeared at informal events wearing jeans and other casual attire, enjoys playing the guitar and had at times given advice to farmers on how best to milk their cows, etc. In the last several months of his tenure as prime minister, Sargisian showed himself as a staunch pro-Eurasian, something that perhaps rather reflected Armenia’s overall foreign policy that took a U-turn last September. Tigran Sargisian (no relation to President Serge Sargisian) could be described as a “prime minister of contrasts.” It was during his term in office that in 2009, amid the global economic crisis, Armenia recorded the second worst rate of recession in the world. By contrast, a small nation like Armenia managed to become producer of its own tablets and smartphones only a few years later and that success was also largely ascribed to the Sargisian government known to have encouraged the development of the IT sector.

It was during Sargisian’s time in office in 2011 that Forbes ranked Armenia as the world’s second worst economy, next to Madagascar. But two years later, another prestigious international report, Doing Business, placed Armenia among leaders of post-Soviet space by the ease of doing business.

Sargisian’s resignation follows an acrimonious exchange of barbs with former President Robert Kocharian over major policy issues at the beginning of this year. It started with Sargisian accusing Kocharian of inflating a “construction bubble” that later burst with negative consequences for the economy. Kocharian responded: “A worthless prime minister is a luxury for the country to keep.”

Sargisian’s opponents also criticized him for trying to find the roots of his “failures” in the economic and social policies of the preceding governments. Sargisian, who found himself at the center of an offshore scandal following allegations made by a local publication last spring and is also known to have been criticized for “selling out” Armenia’s gold reserves, did not avoid appearing in awkward situations as well. During one public event organized by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) Sargisian acted “strangely” and sounded “odd” in making a public speech, which led observers to conclude he was drunk. He later denied having used any alcohol. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t drunk,” he said, blaming the technical equipment for the odd sound effect.

Of all the controversial statements made or said to have been made by Prime Minister Sargisian one appears to stand out for his critics. In one media interview, asked why nothing is being done to curb migration, Sargisian, reportedly, said: “But what shall we do, let people stay and make a revolution?”

Migration as well as other problems like poverty, social polarization, low incomes, inflation, etc. will now be for the next prime minister and government to tackle. Meanwhile, it is not known yet what Sargisian, a member of the RPA, will do next. Few observers doubt, however, that with an impressive CV like his, the father of three and grandfather of one will have any difficulty whatsoever in finding a new job. One local newspaper wrote today that Sargisian may continue his career at a leading international financial institution.