By Philippe Raffi Kalfayan
Recent news from Armenia is rather distressing. We witnessed the selection of a single candidate and his election as president of the Republic of Armenia by the sole will of the Prince. Choosing the prime minister will take place only after April 9, when the current president’s term will end, and Parliament will have eight days to propose candidates and elect one. Already, the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) has announced that it supports the principle of an open and nominal ballot, which is a considerable means of pressure on the deputies. The votes of the Republican Party and those of its ally, the Dashnak Party, form a majority at the Parliament and that leaves little doubt about their candidate’s election. In the run-up to joining the coalition, the ARF insisted on the necessity to reform the constitution and strengthen democratic governance through transition from a semi-presidential regime to a parliamentary one. The present scenario comes to prove that democracy has once more been defeated. In addition, it perpetuates the contempt against the citizens, weakens the image of Armenia on the international arena, and weakens its leaders, including the new president, domestically and abroad.
A president with a considerably affected legitimacy
The Minister of Justice, who led all the legislative drafting efforts to comply with the new constitution, says Armenia considers credible the statement of President-elect Armen Sarkissian that he renounced his British citizenship in 2011 and adds that no further confirmation would be needed, in any case, from another country because Armenia is a sovereign state. This statement is not only an affront to the good sense of the whole Armenian nation, it is also characteristic of the opacity of political life in Armenia, and it is, above all, a thinly-veiled admission that the elected president does not satisfy one of the requirements of the new Constitution: to have been a citizen only of the Republic of Armenia for the last six years. A quick analysis supports that assertion: (1) in 2011, it is unlikely that Armen Sarkissian could foresee that the new Constitution would be adopted in 2015 and that it would be chosen by President Serzh Sargsyan in 2017; (2) who can believe for a moment that he renounced his British citizenship in 2011 and convinced Prince Charles to visit Armenia in 2013, a chain of events that would have been shocking to say the least for the British Crown? (3) Having lived in Britain for the last 30 years (with the exception of the period when he was Prime Minister), he is likely to return to live in the UK sooner or later.
A coalition of NGO’s also reacted on March 5 to the news about the failure of new president “to dispel the doubts about his citizenship” (Read Transparency statement).
Lawyer Vahé Grigoryan supports a more daring analysis, which relates to the process of electing the new president (see http://www.ilur.am/news/view/66500.html; http://www.ilur.am /news/view/66627.html; http://www.ilur.am/news/view/66818.html). He considers that the new Constitution is not yet in force, and that consequently the election of the President should have been in accordance with the terms of the 2005 Constitution, namely by the direct vote of the population, and not by not by Parliament, which would have exceeded its constitutional powers as defined in 2005.