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 Minster 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 guaranty his return as the new and powerful Prime Minster of Armenia that he could not have done with old constitution. Needless to say at the time he denied the allegations.
Since then this issue has surfaced many times, and since only few months is left for the election of the new Prime Minster, 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), that 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 “back room boys”), they have absolute control over the “elected” members of the Parliament.
With this 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 belongs to a Party, but lives in his or her region and works hard to earn the voter’s confidence and be accountable to them rather than just be an obedient servant of 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 late eighties, he has been an influential political figure both in Karabagh and Armenia.
During the early days of Karabagh liberation movement in late eighties, he was the representative of 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 administration in Yerevan. He was also the Defense Minster and then Prime Minster 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 Minster 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 Minster or not. The one answer that I can come up with, is, the age old, greed, and power and all the limelight and trappings that comes 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 Minster of Armenia and most probably become more autocratic at the expense of democracy.
Before concluding let me saying 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 Minster of Armenia in 1991), from whom the presidency was “stolen” by President Levon Ter Petrosyan in 1996 presidential election. The other is Raffi Hovannisian, (the first foreign minster of Armenia in 1991), from whom the presidency was “stolen” by current President Serj Sargsyan in 2008 presidential election.
Is it possible?. I will hazard a guess and say an unqualified, “maybe” for “elder statement” Vazgen Manugyan, and equally unqualified “I do not think so” for Raffi Hovannisian.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian