Outgoing President Serzh Sarkisian may heighten political tensions in Armenia if he decides to become prime minister and thus extend his decade-long rule, opposition leader Nikol Pashinian warned on Friday.
Pashinian issued the warning at the end of heated parliament debates on a government bill that will effectively empower the next Armenian prime minister to grant pardons.
“During this discussion I claimed that the [ruling] Republican Party has already made a de facto internal decision to nominate Serzh Sarkisian for the post of prime minister and that was essentially not refuted,” he said. “I want to once again note that if Serzh Sarkisian decides after all to nominate his prime-ministerial candidacy contrary to his promise that could drastically escalate the political situation in Armenia.”
Sarkisian gave the “promise” cited by Pashinian in 2014. The president declared at the time that he will not “aspire” to the post of prime minister if Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic as a result of his controversial constitutional changes. They were enacted in a disputed referendum held in 2015.
Sarkisian subsequently declined to rule out the possibility of becoming prime minister. In recent weeks, senior members of his Republican Party (HHK) have said that he should remain in power in that capacity. Sarkisian has still not clarified what he is planning to do after serving out his final presidential term on April 9.
Pashinian did not specify whether his Yelk opposition alliance will stage street protests if the HHK-controlled parliament installs Sarkisian as prime minister later in April.
Yelk held rallies in Yerevan on January 19 and February 5 in protest against recent increases in fuel and food prices which it blames on government policies. The rallies attracted several hundred participants.