Armenia’s next prime minister, who will take office in April, will be based in a building in Yerevan that has housed President Serzh Sarkisian and his staff for the past decade, under a newly publicized government bill.
The draft amendments to an Armenian law on “social guarantees” for the country’s top state officials will be construed by some observers as a further indication that Sarkisian is planning to become prime minister after serving out his final presidential term on April 9. The outgoing president has still not clarified his political plans.
In line with controversial constitutional changes enacted by Sarkisian in 2015, Armenia will become a parliamentary republic after the end of his presidency. This means that it is the prime minister who will be the country’s most powerful official.
By contrast, the next president of the republic will have very few executive powers. Under the amendments drafted by the Justice Ministry, he and his staff will move into a new presidential palace in downtown Yerevan that has until now served as a venue for government receptions and intergovernmental meetings. According to Armenian newspaper reports, the Soviet-era building is currently undergoing hasty repairs.
The existing presidential palace was also occupied by former Presidents Robert Kocharian and Levon Ter-Petrosian. The bill stipulates that it will become the prime minister’s headquarters. The latter will be allowed to have up to 600 staffers.
Armenian prime ministers have until now been based in another building located in Yerevan’s central Republic Square. That building has also been the venue for weekly cabinet meetings. It is far more accessible for street protesters than the current presidential palace.
Under another bill awaiting government approval, Armenia will have one first deputy prime minister and two deputy prime ministers starting from April. The current premier, Karen Karapetian, has only one deputy.
There is mounting media speculation that Karapetian will be appointed first deputy prime minister. He has not commented on those rumors so far.