Armenia considers credible the statement by President-elect Armen Sarkissian that he renounced his British citizenship in 2011 and needs no confirmation of this from the United Kingdom, a senior official implied on Wednesday.
Sarkissian, a former Armenian prime minister and ambassador to the UK, was overwhelmingly elected Armenia’s fourth president by the National Assembly on March 2. He will assume the largely ceremonial office when the presidential term of Armenia’s current head of state Serzh Sarkisian (no relation) expires on April 9.
Under Armenia’s reformed Constitution, Sarkissian had to be a citizen of Armenia alone for the past six years to be able to stand for president. Some opposition circles and nongovernmental organizations doubt that the 64-year-old former scholar and businessman, who has been based in London during the past three decades, actually renounced his British citizenship in 2011 in view of a document published by a local investigative magazine suggesting that he might have been a UK national as recently as 2014.
Talking to Armenian media, Sarkissian downplayed the significance of that record taken from the UK registry of companies, arguing that it was “outdated” and did not reflect the reality.
In a statement earlier this week a dozen leading Armenian NGOs said Sarkissian’s failure to produce a British document confirming that he has not been a citizen of the UK for the past six years calls his legitimacy president into doubt. Earlier, Yelk parliamentary leader Nikol Pashinian also stated that suspicions about Sarkissian’s legitimacy will linger on until he proves his citizenship qualification.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) today Armenian Justice Minister David Harutiunian insisted that Sarkissian fully complied with the requirement of the Armenian Constitution and his application renouncing his British citizenship was fully sufficient for that. According to the Armenian minister, it is not essential when the British authorities solved that matter.
“There is no reason for such a row over the legitimacy issue,” Harutiunian said. “From the point of view of the Republic of Armenia’s Constitution, for me the only basis is the application of a person about the renunciation of citizenship. According to the way I read the Constitution, processes and documents of another country are not a basis for me. The application from the citizen of the Republic of Armenia about his or her renunciation of citizenship is fully sufficient for me to consider that this person has renounced that country’s citizenship,” the minister said.
Harutiunian said that the UK legislation or the legislation of any other country is not “mandatory” for Armenia. “The UK’s formal processes, formal processes of any other country have no legal significance for us. What matters for us is the action of a person who is a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, which has a legal consequence. In other words, in my opinion, what matters is the application of a person and not the bureaucratic and administrative process of the United Kingdom, which is important for the United Kingdom, but not for the Republic of Armenia,” he added.
Harutiunian also stressed that under Armenia’s Constitution, Armenia is a sovereign country and “we are acting in this country and our relations are with a citizen of this country, while no other sovereign nation can have an impact on our authority.”