The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) does not fear that some of its lawmakers may break ranks, its spokesperson said ahead of next month’s parliamentary vote on the next prime minister that is going to be held through an open ballot system.
Under Armenia’s new Constitution, when outgoing President Serzh Sarkisian’s powers expire on April 9, the four parliamentary factions will have a week to field their candidates for prime minister, which is going to be the top policymaking post in the country thenceforth.
Unlike the recent parliamentary election of Armenia’s next, largely ceremonial president, which was held by a secret ballot, lawmakers are to elect the country’s next, more powerful prime minister in an open ballot, meaning that the record of each vote will contain the name of the voter.
Together with its junior coalition partner, Dashnaktsutyun, the HHK enjoys a comfortable majority in the Armenian legislature and is expected to be able to easily install its candidate as prime minister.
Opposition representatives as well as pundits have assumed that the open ballot system is preferred by the parliament majority to make sure none of its members vote against the party-backed candidate.
“We have no renegades within the Republican Party,” Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, who is also a spokesman for the HHK, said. “Let them look for renegades in other parties.”
According to Sharmazanov, the HHK will start discussions on its candidacy for next prime minister in early April. “Many say that we are slow, but we aren’t, simply some are too hasty,” he said.
Opposition parties and analysts assume that the HHK will name Sarkisian for the position of prime minister, which, if happens, will be against the promise made by the outgoing president four years ago not to “aspire” to the top post if Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic as a result of controversial constitutional changes initiated by him.
Sharmazanov and other senior HHK members earlier expressed their “personal” views that Sarkisian would be the best choice for the post. They downplayed his earlier promise, saying that in politics one has to be guided by “interests of the State”.
In anticipation of Sarkisian’s nomination at least one Armenian opposition group has warned the outgoing president against attempting to stay in power. Nikol Pashinian, an outspoken government critic who heads the opposition Yelk faction in parliament, said last month that such a move could “drastically escalate the political situation in Armenia.”
The Pashinian-led party in the three-party Yelk alliance has considered a possibility of staging street protests against Sarkisian’s becoming Armenia’s next prime minister in April.
Meanwhile, as a whole the alliance, which has nine members in the 105-seat National Assembly, plans to field its own candidate as an alternative to the majority candidate.
Yelk lawmaker Aram Sargsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) today that they haven’t come up with the decision on who their candidate will be.