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Armenian president resigns

23 January 2022
Armen Sarkissian. Official photo.

Armenia’s fourth president, Armen Sarkissian, has announced his resignation. The acting president will be the president of Armenia’s national assembly, Alen Simonyan.

In the statement in which he published the announcement, Sarkissian criticised the limited powers of the presidential office and decried attacks on the presidential office from ‘various political groups’. 

‘The President does not have the necessary tools to influence the radical processes of domestic and foreign policy in these difficult times for the country and the nation’, he wrote. ‘We have a paradoxical situation when the President has to be a guarantor of statehood without actually having any real tools.’

The ‘root’ of the problem, according to him, was in the present Armenian constitution which ‘presupposes the supremacy of one institution over another’ and ‘creates obstacles for well-known diaspora specialists’. 

The solution he said he favoured to these problems was not to move from a parliamentary to a presidential republic, but to ‘create a system based on checks and balances’. 

Sarkissian, who had recently gone on holiday because of reported health issues said that ‘gossip’ and ‘conspiracy theories’ about him and his family ‘directly’ affected his health.

What’s next?

According to the Constitution of Armenia, the head of the National Assembly — presently Alen Simonyan — will serve as acting president before a new president is elected by the parliament. Members of parliament should present their nominees for the position within 35 days. 

Sarkissian’s resignation triggered a flurry of speculation in the country. 

Opposition Armenia Alliance MP and former Defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan floated the idea that Sarkissian’s resignation may be connected with ‘new documents’ [with Azerbaijan] that he ‘is trying to avoid’. 

Others have speculated that the former president may remain in Armenian politics, with political commentator Nerses Kopalyan tweeting that the public should ‘expect him [Sarkissian] to enter politics as a democratic alternative to Pashinyan’.

As of publication, government officials have not released any official comments on the resignation.

Before the presidency 

A career diplomat who had served as Armenia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1998 to 2018, Sarkissian was elected as president on 2 March 2018. For four months in 1996, he also briefly served as the country’s prime minister, having been appointed by Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan. He was replaced in the position by Robert Kocharyan. 

His tenure as president began in turmoil as the Armenian revolution broke out only a month after he had assumed the post, and catapulted protest leader and opposition political figure Nikol Pashinyan to power.  

Despite becoming president under Armenia’s old regime, Sarkissian appeared to have few public disagreements with Pashinyan in the years following the revolution. However, an open rift opened up following Armenia’s defeat in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, with Sarkissian calling for Pashinyan’s resignation as Prime Minister and the creation of a new government of ‘National Accord’ in November 2020. 

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