Outgoing Prime Minister Karen Karapetian effectively confirmed on Monday that Serzh Sarkisian will remain Armenia’s top leader even after completing his second and final presidential term.
Karapetian made the announcement shortly after tendering his and his ministers’ resignations to Armen Sarkissian, the new president of the republic who took office earlier in the day.
The resignations are mandated by Armenia’s amended constitution envisaging a parliamentary system of government. This means that the next Armenian prime minister will be the country’s most powerful official.
Serzh Sarkisian, who also leads the ruling Republican Party (HHK), signaled his plans to become prime minister when he met with Karapetian on Saturday.
Commenting on that meeting, the outgoing premier said: “We decided to propose to our party comrades to maintain the current government configuration in this period: namely, to nominate Serzh Sarkisian as the number one figure.”
“Because it is extremely important to expedite a smooth and effective transition to the new government system which will minimize risks,” he added in comments reported by his press office.
The Armenian parliament, in which the ruling HHK has a solid majority, is due to elect the next prime minister on April 17. In recent weeks, many senior HHK members have backed Sarkisian to take up the top executive post.
Sarkisian said on Saturday that he and Karapetian will “bear the burden of responsibility” for Armenia’s government for the next four years. This was a further indication that the politically inexperienced Karapetian will be appointed first deputy prime minister primarily responsible for the government’s socioeconomic policies.
The Armenian opposition has strongly condemned Sarkisian’s plans to extend his decade-long rule, calling it a gross failure. Some opposition groups are planning to launch daily street demonstrations in Yerevan later this week in a bid to thwart those plans.
Opposition leaders also accuse Sarkisian of backtracking on his 2014 promise that he will “not aspire” to the post of prime minister if Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic. Sarkisian claimed last month that his political opponents are taking his 2014 statement “out of context.” “I still do not aspire to the post of prime minister,” he said.