The largely ceremonial post became vacant after President Armen Sarkissian unexpectedly announced his resignation on January 22, citing a lack of constitutional powers. Sarkissian’s successor is to be elected for a seven-year term by the Armenian parliament controlled by Pashinian’s Civil Contract party.
Pashinian indicated on January 23 that he will replace Sarkissian by a figure loyal to him but did not name any candidates. Armenian media outlets reported over the weekend that the prime minister and his political team have decided to nominate Khachatrian.
Khachatrian did not deny the reports when he spoke with journalists. He said he meets the qualifications of the job spelled out by the Armenian constitution.
“In these circumstances I could presumably be on the list [of presidential candidates] given that I’m a member of the current government and the [ruling] political team,” he said.
Under the constitution, Sarkissian will be formally relieved of his duties unless he withdraws by Monday night his resignation letter submitted to the National Assembly. In that case, parliament speaker Alen Simonian will serve as interim president of the republic pending the election of a new head of state, which should happen by the beginning of March.
Khachatrian, 62, is an economist who had served as mayor of Yerevan from 1992-1996 during former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s rule. He was a staunch political ally of Ter-Petrosian until agreeing to join the government last August.
Ter-Petrosian has been highly critical of Pashinian since Armenia’s defeat in the 2020 war with Azerbaijan, branding the premier as a “nation-destroying scourge.” The ex-president has also slammed several members of his entourage who took up senior state positions over the past year.