Members of Armenia’s ruling coalition, which is composed of the Republican Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, voted on February 23 to nominate Armen Sarkisian as their presidential candidate in the upcoming election. Sarkisian, who served as prime minister of Armenia briefly from 1996 to 1997, is currently the Armenian ambassador to the United Kingdom. Sarkisian (no relation to current-President Serzh Sarkisian) was named as successor in mid-January, as a “person who is not involved in politics and highly regarded by Armenian society.”
Unaffiliated with any party, Sarkisian’s main projects have involved opening Armenia to investment and encouraging collaboration with multinational corporations and the European Union. Following Armenia’s presidential election on March 2, Sarkisian would be the first president since the constitutional reforms of December 2015 to be elected by the National Assembly instead of a direct popular vote.
Among the several reforms proposed in the December 2015 referendum, Armenia’s government has transitioned from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary one, where presidents are now given more ceremonial responsibilities and limited to one seven-year term. While 66.2 percent of Armenians voted in favor of constitutional reform, many—including opposition parties like the Armenian National Congress and the Heritage Party and objective organizations like the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Citizen Observer Initiative, and the European Platform for Democratic Elections—have criticized the election process. As reasons to nullify the outcome of December of 2015, critics of the referendum cite the low voter turnout of 50.8 percent, procedural violations, vote buying, and the lack of multilateral dialogue in drafting the amendments on the part of the ruling coalition.
On March 2, with 90 lawmakers voting in his favor, Armen Sarkisian became the President of Armenia.