The Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) will have a week after outgoing President Serzh Sarkisian’s powers end on April 9 to decide on the candidacy for prime minister, from then on the top policymaking position in the country under a revised constitution, the ruling party’s spokesperson told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Monday.
Eduard Sharmazanov, who is also a deputy speaker of parliament, said the party has not yet held discussions on the matter. “We will discuss it mainly after April 9 when the current president’s powers end and the government resigns. We have time until April 16 and will discuss it then,” he said.
Opposition groups in Armenia anticipate that Sarkisian will want to continue to stay in power as prime minister despite his 2014 promise not to “aspire” to the top post if Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic as a result of controversial constitutional changes.
Nikol Pashinian, the leader of the opposition Yelk parliamentary faction, again predicted during parliamentary news briefings today that the HHK is going to nominate Sarkisian as Armenia’s next prime minister. He said that a number of circumstances, including the recent adjustments in the legislation giving the next prime minister broad powers, are evidence of such plans.
Incidentally, a parliamentary committee dealing with state and legal issues today gave a positive conclusion to a bill extending the already broad powers to be enjoyed by the next prime minister.
Under the bill, in particular, the National Security Service and the Police will directly report to the head of the government. The committee’s head Gevork Kostanian brushed aside opposition criticism that the changes are aimed at creating an institution of a “super prime minister”.
Last month Pashinian warned in parliament that Sarkisian may heighten political tensions in Armenia if he decides to become prime minister. “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,” the outspoken government critic said.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) today Sharmazanov again said that Sarkisian can become Armenia’s next prime minister. He reminded that the Sarkisian-led HHK won the 2017 parliamentary elections by a landslide and suggested that it obliged the party to be guided “by the interests of the citizens and the State.”
“And my personal opinion is that there is no figure either among Republicans or among other active political groups, especially the opposition, who can better perform the function of the prime minister than Serzh Sarkisian,” said Sharmazanov.
Vahram Baghdasarian, an HHK parliamentary leader, also told media that one should not expect surprises in the matter of Armenia’s next prime minister. At the same time, he said: “We don’t have a decision and nothing is excluded in politics… Things change every day, things in politics may change overnight. So be patient. We will discuss it and will inform you,” he told media.