Prime Minister Karen Karapetian admitted on Friday that he may not be eligible to stand as a candidate of the governing Republican Party (HHK) in Armenia’s forthcoming parliamentary elections.
The Armenian constitution stipulates that only those citizens who have permanently resided in the country for the past four years can run for the National Assembly. Karapetian worked in Russia from 2011 until President Serzh Sarkisian appointed him as prime minister in September 2016.
Karapetian commented on the issue at a news conference held in his office. “For the past five years I have been a citizen of the Republic of Armenia and lived outside Yerevan,” he said. “Does the [constitutional] restriction cover the period of my residency? Can I be on the Republican Party’s [electoral] list? I don’t know the answer to this question.”
“If it covers, then I won’t be on the list,” added Karapetian.
Armen Ashotian, the ruling party’s deputy chairman, also acknowledged on Wednesday that the prime minister may not be legally allowed to run for parliament. But he made clear that Karapetian will retain his post if the HHK wins the elections scheduled for April 2.
Naira Zohrabian, the chairwoman of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest in the current parliament, claimed on Friday that Karapetian has already decided not to participate in the elections. She said that the HHK was ready to break the law and register him as a candidate but that the premier rejected this option.
“It is certainly Karen Karapetian’s personal decision not to allow the Republican Party to commit yet another act of fraud,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenians service (Azatutyun.am).
Speaking to journalists, Karapetian again indicated that he would like to stay on as prime minister after the end of President Sarkisian’s tenure in April 2018 if his government succeeds in improving the economic situation in Armenia.
“Am I inclined to be [prime minister after April 2018?] Yes, if we work productively and if the Republican Party wins the April elections,” he said.
Sarkisian has yet to clarify what he will do after completing his final presidential term in time for Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government. He has declined to rule out the possibility of becoming prime minister.