The chairman of Armenia’s Constitutional Court, Gagik Harutiunian, said on Monday that he does not want to become the next president of the republic despite speculation to the contrary.
The end of President Serzh Sarkisian’s second and final term in April will mark Armenia’s transition to a parliamentary system of government in accordance with a controversial constitutional reform initiated by him. Most of his sweeping executive powers will be transferred to the prime minister backed by the parliamentary majority.
The next head of state will be elected by the National Assembly, rather than popular vote, and have largely ceremonial powers. Sarkisian and his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have still not clarified who they think should occupy that post.
Several Armenian media outlets have claimed in recent months that Harutiunian is Sarkisian’s preferred presidential candidate. They have noted in this regard that he will turn 70 and have to retire from the country’s highest court next under Armenian law.
Harutiunian insisted that he has received no offers to become president when he spoke to reporters in Yerevan. Asked how he will respond if he is offered to succeed Sarkisian as president, he said: “I don’t comment on ‘ifs.’ I have no such desire, it’s not on my agenda.”
“The media is engaged in mental exercises,” he added in reference to the lingering speculation about his political future. “That’s all I can say.”
A Communist Party figure in Soviet times, Harutiunian was elected in 1990 a deputy speaker of Armenia’s first post-Communist parliament. He served as vice-president in the administration of Levon Ter-Petrosian, Armenia’s first president elected in 1991.
Harutiunian became chairman of the newly established Constitutional Court in 1996 shortly after the post of vice-president was abolished by a new Armenian constitution. The court has rarely handed down rulings challenging the current and former Armenian presidents.