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Government Bill To Limit Power Of Armenia’s Next Commander-In-Chief


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Karen Karapetian arrive for a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, 29Jun2017.

Armenia’s prime minister will likely have less authority over the armed forces than the president of the republic currently has after the country becomes a parliamentary republic next April.

The existing Armenian constitution gives the president sweeping powers, including the right to introduce martial law, call a general mobilization and ask the parliament to declare war.

A government bill circulated last month would transfer these powers to the cabinet, rather than the prime minister personally, even though the latter will become the Armenian army’s commander-in-chief after the parliamentary system of government takes effect in April 2018.

The draft Law on Defense would also introduce a more complex chain of command. The Armenian military would be controlled by the government and the defense minister in particular. At the same time its top brass would be directly subordinate to the chief of the army’s General Staff. The latter will in turn report to the defense minister in times of peace and to the prime minister during a war.

Tevan Poghosian, the director of the Yerevan-based International Center for Human Development (ICHD), agreed that the proposed law calls for a more collective leadership of the army. He welcomed this change.

“There is going to be more teamwork in decision making, this is what the parliamentary model is all about,” Poghosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We have always fought for ensuring that all the levers [of power] are not in the president’s hands,” added the former opposition parliamentarian.

But Poghosian also cautioned: “The answer to the question of whether or not a lot will change in our reality after April also depends on who will … hold that post [of prime minister.]”

President Serzh Sarkisian has still not publicly clarified what he plans to do after completing his second and final presidential term in April. He said vaguely in March that he would like to “play a role, in some capacity, in ensuring the security of our people.” For his part, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian has repeatedly indicated his desire to retain his post.

Some observers have suggested that Sarkisian is planning to stay in power in a different, more unofficial capacity. The president is also the top leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, which enjoys a solid majority in the parliament.

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