Opposition lawmakers again protested on Friday against sweeping powers that will be given to Armenia’s next prime minister, saying that they run counter to the parliamentary system of government.
The lawmakers representing the Yelk alliance tried in vain to prevent the National Assembly from passing in the second reading a bill on the structure and powers of a new government to be formed after Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic next month.
In particular, the bill drafted by the Justice Ministry stipulates that Armenia’s police and National Security Service (NSS) will be directly subordinate to the premier, rather than his cabinet. Critics say this is aimed at enabling President Serzh Sarkisian to retain his current authority after his final presidential term ends on April 9. Sarkisian is widely expected to become prime minister later in April.
Yelk proposed that both the police and the NSS be given the status of government ministries headed by cabinet members accountable to the parliament. The parliament’s pro-government majority rejected this amendment.
Edmon Marukian, one of Yelk’s leaders, declared shortly before the passage of the bill that Armenia is about to switch to a “false parliamentary system.” “In essence, the current authorities never intended to lead the country to parliamentary governance,” he said.
Parliament majority leaders denied that. Eduard Sharmazanov, a deputy parliament speaker, claimed that the prime minister’s direct control over the police and the NSS will “increase the degree of their political responsibility.”
“We are creating not the post of super prime minister but a prime minister who will bear absolute political responsibility towards the people and the parliament,” Gevorg Kostanian, another senior pro-government lawmaker, said for his part.
Under Armenia’s radically amended constitution, the prime minister will also be the Armenian army’s commander-in-chief. He or she will nominate members of the army’s top brass that will have to be appointed by the president of the republic.
In addition, the next Armenian premier will head a Security Council tasked with determining “the main directions of defense policy.”