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Kocharian Criticizes Armenian Government's Handling Of Economy

Former President Robert Kocharian

Former President Robert Kocharian

YEREVAN -- Former Armenian President Robert Kocharian has criticized the economic policies of the current government, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Kocharian attacked the government's response to the global financial crisis that hit Armenia particularly hard in 2009, when the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) officially contracted by 14.4 percent.

In an interview with Mediamax, Kocharian accused authorities of squandering an "ideal macroeconomic situation" that he said his successor, President Serzh Sarkisian, inherited from his administration.

Kocharian, who was president from 1998-2008, said Armenia's economy grew by more than 10 percent on average during his term in office, while the country's external debt and budget deficit steadily decreased as a percentage of GDP.

He also dismissed suggestions that the economy contracted sharply in 2009 because of excessive growth during the construction boom that took place during the latter part of his term.

Representatives from Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia declined to comment on the former president's criticism.

But former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian, of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), told RFE/RL that the Kocharian administration overstated the country's economic growth rates and artificially stimulated the construction sector for "personal gain."

The HAK has been Kocharian's most fervent detractor, even after he handed power to Sarkisian in April 2008. Kocharian was not a member of any political party during his presidency.

Newspapers supporting the opposition alliance have since regularly speculated about Kocharian's impending return to active politics. Some recently claimed that Kocharian had demanded that Sarkisian appoint him as prime minister.

Like Kocharian, Sarkisian is from the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Sarkisian served as prime minister under Kocharian from 2007-08 before being chosen as a candidate to succeed him as president.