The opposition Yelk bloc announced on Thursday plans to nominate one of its senior members as a candidate for the post of Armenia’s president who will be elected by the parliament in March.
The candidate, Artak Zeynalian, is a parliament deputy and prominent civil rights campaigner.
Under the Armenian constitution controversially amended in 2015, the next head of state must be chosen one month before President Serzh Sarkisian completes his second and final term in early April. The end of his decade-long rule will be followed by the country’s transition to a parliamentary system of government. It means that Sarkisian’s successor will have largely ceremonial powers.
The constitution stipulates that only those individuals who are backed by at least 26 members of the 105-seat National Assembly can run for president. Yelk holds 9 parliament seats.
One of the bloc’s leaders, Nikol Pashinian, said Yelk will start in the coming days “consultations on this theme” with businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance represented in the parliament by 31 deputies. He said Yelk hopes that the Tsarukian Bloc will back Zeynalian’s candidacy.
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) controls the majority of parliament seats, putting it in a position to install the next president. It can also count on the backing of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), its junior coalition partner holding 7 seats. The HHK, which is headed by President Sarkisian, has still not clarified who its presidential candidate will be.
“It’s obvious that such initiatives cannot lead to success,” Aghvan Vartanian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, said of Yelk’s plans. “But political struggle is a show. Let them nominate [a presidential candidate.]”
Pashinian seemed to acknowledge that the Yelk candidate is extremely unlikely to get elected. “We just want to show our people and voters that had they voted [in the April 2017 parliamentary elections] otherwise the turn of events would have also been different,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Echoing statements by other Yelk leaders, the oppositionist again claimed that the HHK won the elections primarily as a result of vote buying.