The leader of an Armenian parliamentary opposition party criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Tuesday for not curtailing his sweeping executive powers inherited from the country’s former leaders.
Edmon Marukian pointed to a government bill that would keep Armenia’s police, National Security Service (NSS) and tax and customs services accountable to the prime minister, rather than his cabinet or the parliament.
These agencies were directly controlled by the presidents of the republic under the previous, presidential system of government. Former President Serzh Sarkisian made sure that they will be subordinate to the prime minister when he enacted controversial constitutional changes that turned Armenia into a parliamentary republic.
Sarkisian planned to stay in power as prime minister after serving out his second presidential term in April this year.
Pashinian, Marukian and other leaders of the now defunct Yelk alliance strongly criticized a corresponding bill which Sarkisian pushed through the parliament as recently as in March. They accused him of introducing a “super prime-ministerial” system of government with the aim of maintaining a tight grip on power.
Pashinian did not alter that system after he swept to power in May on a wave of mass protests that toppled Sarkisian. Under a new bill on the government’s structure drafted by his office, the heads of the police, the NSS and the State Revenue Committee would continue to report to the prime minister and not be part of the ruling cabinet.
Armenia’s newly elected parliament dominated by Pashinian’s supporters is expected to debate the bill at its first session next month.
Marukian, whose Bright Armenia party will have 18 seats in the 132-member parliament, complained that Pashinian is now intent on retaining what he described as excessive executive powers.
“The agencies that were placed beyond parliamentary oversight under [former President] Robert Kocharian remain beyond it,” Marukian told reporters. “Those are the police, the National Security Service and the State Revenue Committee …The country is not becoming a parliamentary republic, it remains super prime-ministerial, something which we criticized during Serzh Sarkisian’s rule.”
“In the institutional sense, this is wrong, terribly wrong … There are no parliamentary republics in the world where the chiefs of security agencies operate outside parliamentary oversight,” he said.
The government has yet to explain why it is not planning to limit the prime-ministerial powers. A spokesperson for outgoing First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said on Tuesday that it is ready to consider opposition proposals on the issue.