The ruling Republican Party (HHK) on Thursday pointedly declined to deny reports that Armen Sarkissian, a former Armenian prime minister who has lived in Britain for nearly three decades, will become Armenia’s next president.
The Armenian parliament controlled by the HHK will elect a president of the republic in early March, one month before the current President Serzh Sarkisian completes his second and final term. Armenia will also switch to the parliamentary system of government in April, meaning that the new president will have largely ceremonial powers.
Sarkisian said on Tuesday that the next head of state must be a renowned but politically inexperienced person who has “broad connections in both Armenia and the Diaspora.” But he did not name anyone.
Some Armenian newspapers claimed this week that Armen Sarkissian (no relation), who is currently Armenia’s ambassador in London, is the outgoing president’s preferred successor.
Commenting on those reports, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, Vahram Baghdasarian, said the prominent ambassador, who briefly served as Armenia’s prime minister in 1996-1997, meets the requirements specified by Serzh Sarkisian.
“It is logical to discuss his candidacy because when you look at his personality and the criteria [set by Serzh Sarkisian] you see conformity there,” Baghdasarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “And if that candidacy is nominated we will discuss it.”
Baghdasarian insisted that Armen Sarkissian’s four-month tenure as Armenian prime minister does not count as political experience and is therefore not an obstacle to his potential presidency. “I don’t think we can find any well-known individuals who have never dealt with politics at all,” he said.
The HHK’s governing board headed by President Sarkisian was due to meet and discuss the matter later in the day.
A physicist and mathematician by education, Armen Sarkissian worked at the Cambridge University when he was appointed as newly independent Armenia’s first ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1991. After another ambassadorial stint cut short in 1999 by then President Robert Kocharian, Sarkissian stayed in London and went on to work as a senior advisor to major Western corporations such as BP, Alcatel and Bank of America. He also founded and ran the Eurasia Center of a Cambridge University business school from 2001-2011.
Sarkissian, 64, also established an apparently friendly rapport with Britain’s Prince Charles. The two men jointly raised funds for charity projects in Scotland and Armenia. Sarkissian was instrumental in Charles’s May 2013 visit to Armenia. He was again appointed as Armenian ambassador to the UK four months after that trip.