The second term of President Serj Sargsyan of Armenia will be over in April 2018. At the same time, the new constitution that was “passed” with a rigged referendum will come into full force.
As per the new constitution, the Parliament of Armenia will elect a new President that will have more of a ceremonial role to play. At the same time, the Parliament will also elect a new Prime Minister that will become the most powerful political leader in the country.
Since the new constitution was proposed by President Serj Sargsyan around mid-2015, the speculation has been that he did it to guarantee his return as the new and powerful Prime Minister of Armenia which he could not have done with the old constitution. Needless to say at the time he denied the allegations.
Since then this issue has surfaced many times, and since only a few months are left for the election of the new Prime Minister, the speculation has resurfaced again.
Needless to say, if Serj Sargsyan wants the job, his election, rather his “coronation”, will be just a formality due to the fact that he is the president of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), which has an absolute majority in the Parliament.
Here I should mention that according to the new constitution the Party leaders are the most powerful politicians in Armenia. Behind the scene, and through their cronies, (mostly “backroom boys”), they have absolute control over the “elected” members of the Parliament.
With these new proportional electoral laws, the Party System (Կուսակցատիրութիւն), is legally institutionalized at the expense of democracy (Ժողովրդավարութիւն). In a way, this new electoral system is the “legalization” of the old soviet style party hegemony under the guise of multi-Party democracy.
(There are proportional electoral systems where the voters elect their representatives who although belong to a Party but live in their ridings and work hard to earn the voter’s confidence and be accountable to them rather than just be an obedient servant of the Party “boss”).
Serj Sargsyan’s public profile is fairly long. He started his political activities very early as a member of the Communist Party Youth Organisation (KOMSOMOL) in Karabagh. Since the late eighties, he has been an influential political figure both in Karabagh and Armenia.
During the early days of the Karabagh liberation movement in the late eighties, he was the representative of the Pan Armenian Movement “Հայոց Համազգային Շարժում” (ՀՀՇ) in Karabagh. (ՀՀՇ was a united political movement established by Levon Ter Petrosyan the first president of Armenia).
He also held major cabinet posts in Levon Ter Petrosian’s administration in Yerevan. He was also the Defense Minister and then Prime Minister in Robert Kocharian’s administration, and since 2008 he is the President of Armenia.
Let me emphasize again that, whether Serj Sargsyan is elected the Prime Minister or not, he, as the president of RPA, will continue to remain the most powerful politician in Armenia.
Then why all this speculation about whether the President will want to become the Prime Minister or not. The one answer that I can come up with, is the age-old, greed, power, and all the limelight and trappings that come with it.
Needless to say, most of the long-serving autocratic political leaders get “addicted” to greed and power and become very reluctant to give it up, unless, of course, they are forced to do so. (Preferably through a democratic and fair electoral system).
Since he has been in power for a long time, I will hazard a guess and say that he will keep both positions. He will remain the president of RPA, and “gracefully” accept his “crowning” as the new and powerful Prime Minister of Armenia and most probably become more autocratic at the expense of democracy.
Before concluding let me say a few words about the election of the President as well. Although it is a ceremonial post but it has some symbolic importance. The best-qualified candidates are the two people from whom the Presidency were “stolen” in the past.
The first is Vazgen Manugyan (the first Prime Minister of Armenia in 1991), from whom the presidency was “stolen” by President Levon Ter Petrosyan in the 1996 presidential election. The other is Raffi Hovannisian, (the first foreign minister of Armenia in 1991), from whom the presidency was “stolen” by current President Serj Sargsyan in the 2008 presidential election.
Is it possible?. I will hazard a guess and say an unqualified, “maybe” for “elder statement” Vazgen Manugyan, and an equally unqualified “I do not think so” for Raffi Hovannisian.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian