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Transit of power in Armenia: from Serzh Sargsyan to Serzh Sargsyan

President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan. Photo: Shabat.am

The process of transit of power in Armenia is well underway. The country’s political system is preparing for April 2018, the date when the second term of the current president will expire to give a start to a parliamentary regime.

Even today, we can see the rough shape of the future government. For already one year, the key topic in Armenia has been whether current Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan will remain prime minister after April 2018 or he will be replaced by Serzh Sargsyan. For many in Armenia, Karapetyan is a temporary manager, who has been chosen by Sargsyan as a “symbol of changes” in order to help him to conduct noiseless parliamentary elections and to insure the regime from any political emergencies, that is, to prevent those very “changes” he was supposed to symbolize.

A few days ago, Zhamanak, a newspaper that has reliable sources in the government, reported that there will be reshuffles in the system. The prime minister will no longer have any powers in the fields of defense and security according to the new bill on defense to be shortly discussed by the parliament.

In the future parliamentary Armenia, defense and security will be controlled by the National Security Council. This means that this structure will get an even bigger political role in the country (quite a normal practice for some post-Soviet republics, especially for those who have unsettled conflicts).

The office of the Secretary of the National Security Council is currently vacant. The last secretary Yuri Khachaturov resigned after his appointment as Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. So, for the time being, the council is controlled by the president.

The new bill on defense was not a surprise for experts. After the resignation of Hovik Abrahamyan’s Cabinet, old-timers like Seyran Ohanyan and Gorik Hakobyan lost their offices (of defense minister and director of the National Security Service, respectively) and were replaced by youngsters from the presidential administration, Vigen Sargsyan and Georgy Kutoyan. And the first thing the newcomers did was serious personnel reshuffles in their agencies.

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So, if Serzh Sargsyan moves from the presidential palace into the office of the Secretary of the National Security Council, he will control the police, the Defense Ministry, the Emergency Situations Ministry, the Service for Compulsory Enforcement of Judicial Acts and even the Corrections Department of the Justice Ministry, which will ensure Armenia’s fluent transition to parliamentary republic and collective leadership system.

But the purpose of all these changes is not to develop the country or its political system but to ensure easy transition of power from Serzh Sargsyan as president to Serzh Sargsyan as the leader of the ruling Republican Party and the coordinator of the law enforcement system. This is not going to be an easy process but its completion will reflect exactly what the pre-electoral slogan of the Republicans says: “Security and Development“, where Serzh Sargsyan will symbolize “Security” and Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan will be responsible for “Development”.

When speaking to servicemen in Nagorno-Karabakh on Mar 25, Sargsyan specified his future mission: “People keep asking me what I will do after 2018. I have never planned my steps so far. I have always been where I was needed. I don’t know what a political structure there will be in Armenia in 2018 but if my political force wins, I will be responsible for the security of our people. I don’t know what kind of a status that will be but there certainly is a format that will let me be useful to my country.”

He said that before the parliamentary elections. The elections are over, Sargsyan’s party won the race. The next step for Sargsyan is to gain control over the law enforcers. The new bill on defense is supposed to help him in the matter. As to the status of the prime minister in the parliamentary Armenia, it will be shaky and vulnerable as that man will have no control over either the army or the police.

Arshaluys Mgdesyan

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