With just over two months to go before the end of his final term, President Serzh Sarkisian pledged at the weekend to personally help to implement a seven-year program of modernizing Armenia’s armed forces.
“We will continue to consistently enhance the combat readiness of our army,” Sarkisian said in a speech delivered at the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan. “To that end, we have adopted a seven-year program of modernizing the army which we will put into practice in accordance with a timetable.”
“I personally will spare no effort to ensure that our army becomes more modern and stronger,” he added during an official ceremony to mark the 26th anniversary of the official creation of the Armenian military. He did not specify in what capacity he will be doing that.
Sarkisian’s second and final five-year presidential term will end on April 9. It will be immediately followed by Armenia’s transition to a parliamentary system of government. Most of the existing presidential powers, including that of army commander-in-chief, will be transferred to the next Armenian prime minister.
Local observers believe that the outgoing president, who leads the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), will remain in power in one way or another. Many of them think that he will become prime minister. Sarkisian himself has not clarified his political plans yet.
The seven-year plan cited by him was drawn up by the Armenian Defense Ministry earlier this month. It has not yet been formally endorsed by the head of state.
Speaking to reporters at Yerablur, Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian declined to divulge any details of the unpublicized document.“There is a different format for doing that,” he said. “We will definitely address it.”
The Armenian president said in October that the plan in question will call, among other things, for sizable annual increases in defense spending. It is projected to rise by about 18 percent to 247 billion drams ($515 million) this year.