A senior member of Armenia’s ruling party on Tuesday downplayed the threat of possible street protests by the opposition against what it views as outgoing President Serzh Sarkisian’s intention to extend his power in the capacity of prime minister after the end of his second and final presidential term next month.
At the same time, Vahram Baghdasarian, who heads the parliamentary faction of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), challenged other political groups to name their own candidates for the post of next prime minister that will be the top policymaker in the country in accordance with the reformed Constitution.
Baghdasarian said in the HHK they were ready to discuss such candidates. “But they [other political parties] do not name them,” he said, stressing that in his personal view the HHK’s current leader and outgoing President Sarkisian is the politician who more than anyone else deserves to become the country’s next prime minster.
Armenia is a country that is de facto in a state of war because of a conflict with its neighbor Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and, therefore, has security issues, Baghdasarian reminded, stressing that Sarkisian is the person who is “capable of carrying this heavy burden.”
Several members of the HHK have already spoken in favor of Sarkisian’s candidacy for the post of Armenia’s next prime minister and the outgoing president himself has not ruled out such a possibility despite his 2014 promise not to “aspire” to the top post if Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic as a result of controversial constitutional changes initiated by him.
In anticipation of such a move at least one Armenian opposition group has warned Sarkisian against attempting to stay in power.
“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,” Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken government critic who heads the opposition Yelk faction in parliament, said on February 9.
The Yelk alliance has considered a possibility of staging street protests against Sarkisian’s becoming Armenia’s next prime minister in April.
But Baghdasarian said he doubted Yelk’s idea of protests would be popular. He suggested that the opposition alliance should use the parliamentary platform instead. “Taking politics into the street has never produced a result and has not been efficient either in terms of the country’s development or generally in terms of the development of a given political group,” the senior HHK representative said.
Under Armenia’s new Constitution, the government will resign on April 9, the day when Sarkisian’s presidential powers will expire. The political parties represented in parliament will then have a week to nominate candidates for prime minister. Together with its junior coalition partner, Dashnaktsutyun, the HHK enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament to install its candidate as Armenia’s next prime minister.