Armenia ex-president to become PM: party

Armenia's Serzh Sarkisian, set to become the country's prime minister, is a pro-Moscow veteran politician who has already served as premier in 2007-2008

Yerevan (AFP) – Armenia’s Serzh Sarkisian was on Wednesday set to become the country’s prime minister as the ruling party announced his nomination for the premiership, days after he stepped down as president.

“At the session of its executive committee, the Republican Party took the decision to nominate Serzh Sarkisian for the prime-ministerial post,” party spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, told AFP.

“The nomination will be submitted on Saturday and the vote will take place on Monday,” he added.

The pro-Moscow veteran politician — who has already served as premier in 2007-2008 — concluded his second and final term as president after his successor Armen Sarkissian was sworn in on Monday. They are not relations.

Armen Sarkisian’s inauguration has allowed controversial 2015 constitutional amendments to come into force, turning the country into a parliamentary republic with a strong prime minister.

The political shift was initiated by Sarkisian and was approved in a referendum with 63 percent of the voters backing the changes.

The opposition has said the reform was designed by Sarkisian to remain in power after he steps down as president.

After the December 2015 referendum, thousands of opposition supporters rallied in protest against alleged mass violations at polling stations.

Council of Europe observers have said the referendum was marred by allegations of large-scale vote buying and multiple voting, among other irregularities.

A shrewd former military officer, Sarkisian, 63, has been in charge of the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million since winning a vote in 2008.

After that poll, 10 people died in bloody clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.

Sarkisian won a second term in 2013.