YEREVAN , Armenia, Sept. 13 (UPI) — Karen Karapetyan was named Armenia’s new prime minister Tuesday following the resignation of Hovik Abrahamyan last week.
The Armenian parliament’s ruling Republican Party approved Karapetyan’s candidacy on Sept. 8, and the Presidential Press Service reported Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan made the announcement, noting Karapetyan has 20 days to form a cabinet.
The change in leadership comes after months of protests in the streets of Yerevan, the capital, calling for social reform. Anger over electricity costs, pension reform and increases in the cost of public transportation led to armed men overtaking a Yerevan police station for two weeks in July. They demanded freedom for jailed opposition leader Kirair Sefilian and the resignation of the government. Human Rights Watch accused Armenian police of using excessive force on peaceful protesters and for jailing journalists.
Karapetyan, 53, is a former mayor of Yerevan and former chief of the Armenian gas distribution company ArmRosGazprom. He resigned as deputy CEO of Russian gas producer Gazprom’s Mezhregiongaz unit to become prime minister.
Armenia, a small and landlocked country of 3 million people, was a part of the Soviet Union until 1991. Bordered by Iran, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, it relies heavily on Russian aid and investment, and has been hit severely by Russia’s economic downturn.