President Serzh Sarkisian has assured critics of controversial constitutional reforms planned by him that he will not seek top positions in the executive and legislative branches if Armenia switches to a parliamentary system of government.
Sarkisian, whose second and final presidential term ends in 2018, already stated more than a year ago that he will not become prime minister in case of such a radical change.
His political opponents dismissed those assurances, saying that he would most likely become parliament speaker and continue to control the government in that capacity. Sarkisian reportedly ruled out such a possibility at a meeting late on Thursday of the governing body of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
“Today the president made it clear to skeptics that he definitely means the post of National Assembly chairman as well,” Davit Harutiunian, the chief of the Armenian government staff and a senior HHK figure, told reporters after that meeting.
Hrayr Tovmasian, a member of a presidential commission drafting constitutional amendments, confirmed this on Friday. Tovmasian said that it would also be technically impossible for Sarkisian to become parliament speaker. He argued that the president will complete his second five-year term almost one year after Armenia’s next parliamentary elections due in May 2017.
Accordingly, both Tovmasian and Harutiunian dismissed opposition claims that the key aim of the planned constitutional changes is to enable Sarkisian to prolong his rule without lifting the existing constitutional ban on a third presidential term. They said the HHK is in a position to stay in power even under the existing constitution which gives sweeping powers to the head of state.
Harutiunian, who is also a member of the presidential commission, claimed that transition to a parliamentary republic would on the contrary facilitate an eventual “peaceful regime change” in Armenia. “And a peaceful regime change must not create dangers for the country,” he said. “This is the main idea which we are advancing with these reforms.”
“Nobody is saying that the Republican Party will win elections and stay in power for the next 100 years,” agreed Tovmasian. He said the parliamentary system would make it harder for authorities to rig elections.