President Serzh Sarkisian plans to become Armenia’s prime minister after serving out his second and final presidential term in 2018, an opposition leader claimed on Monday.
“[Prime Minister] Karen Karapetian is being used [by Sarkisian] for achieving a [strong] result in the April 2017 parliamentary elections,” said Levon Zurabian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK). “According to what Serzh Sarkisian himself has said, he is to become prime minister in 2018.”
Sarkisian stated in 2014 that he will not stay in power in a different capacity if Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic as a result of his controversial constitutional reform. But he pointedly declined to reaffirm that pledge on the eve of a constitutional referendum held late last year. Armenia is now switching to the parliamentary system of government as a consequence of the disputed vote.
The president again did not exclude such a possibility in an interview with the Al-Jazeera television network aired late last month. “Next year we are going to have parliamentary elections and in order for me to consider such an option our party should at least make a strong showing in the elections,” he said.
Sarkisian shed no light on his political future when he addressed a weekend congress of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Senior HHK figures likewise declined to clarify whether he intends to retain the reins of power after 2018.
“I think that it is still too early to talk about events of mid-2018,” Armen Ashotian, a deputy chairman of the ruling party, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Sunday.
When asked about Sarkisian’s comments to Al-Jazeera, Ashotian said: “Before making such far-reaching forecasts we need to take into account one very important fact: we are going to have parliamentary elections in 2017. A new parliament will be formed as a result of those elections and the parliament will form a government.”
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, said on November 7 that Sarkisian will continue to lead the party for “many years” to come. He also noted in that regard that political parties will now play the key role in Armenia’s political life.
The HAK and other opposition parties strongly resisted the 2015 constitutional reform. They said that Armenia’s transformation into a parliamentary republic is aimed at enabling Sarkisian to extend his rule.