The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) confirmed late on Wednesday that it will nominate its chairman, former President Serzh Sarkisian, to be the country’s next, more powerful prime minister.
The Armenian parliament, in which the HHK has a solid majority, is scheduled to vote for the new prime minister on April 17. It will thus complete the country’s transition to a parliamentary system of government initiated by Sarkisian.
The latter completed his second and final presidential term on Monday. The controversial constitutional change allows him to extend his decade-long rule.
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, made the widely anticipated announcement following a meeting of the ruling party’s Executive Body. He said the party’s larger Council will formalize the nomination on Saturday.
“I think it is clear who our prime ministerial candidate will be because we did not discuss any other names,” Sharmazanov told reporters. “No other opinions were voiced or, I think, crossed anybody’s mind.”
“We all unanimously trust the chairman of our party, and [outgoing Prime Minister] Karen Karapetian’s proposal was approved by all members of the Executive Body,” he said.
Sarkisian and Karapetian met on Saturday to discuss their political future. The outgoing premier said afterwards that they decided to “propose” to the HHK leadership to nominate Sarkisian for prime minister.
Karapetian, who is also the HHK’s first deputy chairman, cited the need for a “smooth and effective transition to the new system of government.” He is expected to become the number two government figure in his new capacity as first deputy prime minister.
Sarkisian promised in April 2014 he will “not aspire” to the post of prime minister if Armenia becomes a parliamentary republic as a result of his constitutional changes. He downplayed that pledge and signaled his plans to hold on to power last month. He cited the increased risk of renewed fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and other security challenges facing Armenia.
The Armenian opposition accuses Sarkisian of failing to keep his word. Some opposition and civic groups are planning to launch later this week daily demonstrations against his continued rule.
Several dozen anti-government activists blocked a street adjacent to the HHK headquarters in Yerevan during Wednesday’s party leadership meeting. They marched through the city center later in the evening. Riot police stopped the small crowd from approaching the former presidential palace that will serve as the seat of the next Armenian prime minister.