Former Prime Minister Armen Sarkissian, who is tipped to become Armenia’s next president, has dismissed suggestions that he would play a largely ceremonial role as head of state because of the country’s impending transformation into a parliamentary republic.
The switch to the parliamentary republic will make the Armenian prime minister the most powerful state official with wide-ranging executive powers, including those of commander-in-chief. Those powers have until now been wielded by President Serzh Sarkisian and his predecessors.
In an interview with the private Shant TV channel aired late on Tuesday, Sarkissian again stated that he has yet to decide whether to accept the outgoing president’s proposal to succeed him as head of state in April. But he also pointedly disagreed with those who believe that the next Armenian president will be “without powers.”
“If they read the constitution carefully they will see that it envisages not a limited monarchy but more powers than are enjoyed by the presidents of many European parliamentary republics,” said the ex-premier currently serving as Armenia’s ambassador to Britain.
“Obviously, the president of the republic will have to stick to the letter and the spirit of the constitution during their tenure,” he went on. “But you and I know very well that with the same letters and the same words one can write different sentences and express different thoughts.”
Sarkissian did not specify policy areas on which he believes the president could exert strong influence.He said only that he would “make every effort to develop the economy and create jobs” if he is elected president.
Under Armenia’s controversially amended constitution, the next president of the republic will be elected by the parliament for a seven-year term and be primarily tasked with ensuring “observance of the constitution” by various branches of government. In particular, he or she will be able to send parliament-approved bills to the Constitutional Court for examination in case of objecting to their provisions. The bills will have to be signed into law if the court certifies their conformity with the basic law.
The president will also be empowered to appoint members of the government, Armenian ambassadors abroad and the Armenian army’s top brass nominated by the prime minister. In addition, he or she can sign international treaties recommended by the ruling cabinet.
Sarkissian, 64, has lived and worked in Britain for nearly three decades. He is thought to have made a big fortune there in the 2000s when he worked as a consultant and adviser for major Western corporations as well as lending institutions.