Pashinian’s Civil Contract party announced the decision hours after parliament speaker Alen Simonian formally accepted President Armen Sarkissian’s resignation and took over as interim president.
Simonian will perform the largely ceremonial duties of Armenia’s president until National Assembly controlled by Civil Contract elects a new head of state. The vote is expected in late February or early March.
Sarkissian announced his unexpected resignation on January 23, citing a lack of constitutional powers vested in the presidency. Pashinian indicated the next day that he will replace Sarkissian by a figure loyal to him.
Khachatrian effectively confirmed on Monday reports that he has been offered to take up the post. He visited the parliament building in Yerevan and met with lawmakers from the ruling party on Tuesday.
Civil Contract’s parliamentary leader, Hayk Konjorian, announced the presidential nomination after the meeting that lasted for two and a half hours. Konjorian said Khachatrian’s background and “political prudence” make him a good fit for the job.
“I think we made a good choice,” agreed Simonian.
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 Pashinian’s government last August.
Pashinian’s party holds 71 seats in the 107-member parliament, putting in a position to install Khachatrian, without opposition support, in the second round of voting.
Aram Vartevanian, a lawmaker from the main opposition Hayastan bloc, all but ruled out such support, saying that Khachatrian is a partisan figure who can hardly play the role stipulated by the Armenian constitution.
Vartevanian also told journalists that Hayastan has not yet decided whether to nominate its own presidential candidate. The other parliamentary opposition force, Pativ Unem, has also not named or backed any candidate so far.
The constitution requires the president of the republic to have been a citizen of only Armenia and resided in the country for at least six years preceding his or her election.
An Armenian investigative publication, Hetq.am, claimed on January 24 that Sarkissian violated this requirement. It said that he remained a dual citizen of the Caribbean island country of Saint Kitts and Nevis “not long before being elected president in March 2018.”
Sarkissian left Armenia several days before stepping down. In a January 25 statement, the presidential press office reaffirmed the stated reason for his resignation and accused the independent publication of trying to “divert public attention with a false agenda.”