Armenia’s political leadership is considering embarking on sweeping constitutional reforms which could keep President Serzh Sarkisian in power after he completes his second and final term in 2018, a senior member of the ruling Republican Party (HHK) said on Tuesday.
Davit Harutiunian, who also chairs the Armenian parliament’s committee on legal affairs, said Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic led by a powerful prime minister is one of the options currently discussed by the HHK leadership.
“I can say that the decision makers are already of the opinion that the constitution needs to be amended. To what extent? That’s the key question. There are different approaches,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.
Harutiunian stressed that he personally believes that the existing constitutional system of checks and balances is “not effective” anymore.” More importantly, he did not rule out the possibility of Sarkisian leading the HHK in the next parliamentary elections and becoming prime minister in case of the radical change of Armenia’s existing system of governance.
“I don’t exclude the discussion of this or any other variant,” the influential lawmaker said. “There are no taboo subjects. Nevertheless, I think that when making decisions each of us will be taking into account possible dangers and negative aspects.”
The Armenian constitution, which was adopted in 1995 and amended in 2005, gives sweeping powers to the president of the republic, making him by far the most powerful official in the country. Opposition groups have long been seeking to curtail those powers. Most of them have favored, at least until now, a switch to a parliamentary republic.
The constitution bars Sarkisian from seeking a third five-year term in office in 2018. Citing unnamed HHK sources, the Yerevan newspaper “168 Zham” reported late last week that Sarkisian would like to extend his rule beyond that time frame. It claimed that he is even ready to resign as president and become prime minister in 2017, one year before the expiry of his second term.
Harutiunian insisted that Sarkisian’s personal interests are not the driving force behind the constitutional reform planned by the authorities. He claimed that they are only keen to neutralize unspecified “dangers” facing the Armenian state.
Harutiunian also revealed that the president will soon set up a working group tasked with developing a “concept” of the reform. He said it could be headed by Gagik Harutiunian, the chairman of the Constitutional Court.