President Serzh Sarkisian does not plan to retire from active politics or abandon strong influence on government policy after serving out his second and final term in 2018, one of his two brothers said on Tuesday.
“I think that he will engage in partisan work,” Levon Sarkisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If he is the leader of the [ruling Republican] party, he will work for the party and will certainly stay in politics.”
Asked whether this means the president intends to remain one of the country’s major decision-makers, Sarkisian said: “If the Republican Party (HHK) retains a serious role in the country, he will certainly have [such a role] through the party.”
Armenia’s recently amended constitution envisages the country’s transition by 2018 to the parliamentary system of governance, meaning that the next president of the republic will have largely ceremonial powers. As he pressed ahead with his controversial constitutional changes in 2014 and 2015, Serzh Sarkisian said that he will not become prime minister or parliament speaker if he succeeds in turning Armenia into a parliamentary republic.
However, the president pointedly declined to reaffirm that pledge on the eve of the December 6 referendum on his constitutional package. “We’ll talk about that after the 2017 parliamentary elections,” he said.
“As far as I know, he has repeatedly stated that he will not occupy any post [after 2018,]” Levon Sarkisian said in this regard.
Asked whether the president could backtrack on his pledges, he said: “I don’t think so.” But Sarkisian, who is a retired diplomat and scholar by training, was quick to add: “I don’t know, I can’t tell because decisions change in accordance with circumstances. If circumstances change, so do decisions.”
Sarkisian’s political opponents maintain that the main aim of the sweeping constitutional reform was to allow the Armenian leader to officially or unofficially extend his rule. Sarkisian and his allies insist, however, that the reform is only aimed at decentralizing power in the country and thereby fostering democratization.