Flares Go Off in Parliament (Literally), Serge Sarkisian Receives PM Nomination, Tsarukyan Alliance Voices Dissent

Last night, as Americans reeled from the shock of Paul Ryan’s decision to step down from one of the most powerful roles in his nation’s government after just two and a half years, nearly 6,000 miles away, Armenian citizens seemed curiously unfazed at headlines reading that their nation’s most powerful figure for the last decade—in a virtuosic circumnavigation of constitutional law—will almost certainly continue his leadership over the country.

In a bizarre display of protest, two opposition deputies set off smoke flares yesterday during a session of parliament, hoping to attract public attention to join their demonstrations against Serge Sarkisian’s continued rule this Friday at Liberty Square (Photo: hetq.am)

This Monday, former Armenian President Serge Sarkisian stepped down from the presidency  (and in celebration, opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan planted a “farewell tree”), but his tenure as a private citizen was short-lived. Late on Wednesday, the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) confirmed that it will nominate Sarkisian to be the country’s next prime minister—a role that has been made even more powerful by the controversial 2015 referendum, which switched the country from presidential system of governance to a parliamentary one. The role of president, which is now occupied by President Armen Sarkissian, is rendered largely ceremonial role by this change. The role of prime minister will be solidified when parliament takes a vote on April 17.

For reference, the RPA, which makes up 58 of the 105 seats in Armenia’s parliament. The RPA is part of a coalition with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), a statedly socialist, nationalist party founded in Tbilisi in 1890, and out of whose roots this newspaper was born. The ARF holds seven seats in congress, giving the coalition 65 potential votes.

The remaining 40 seats in parliament are occupied by opposition parties, one of which is the “Tsarukyan Alliance,” made up of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), founded by businessman and oligarch, Gagik Tsarukyan, the Alliance and Mission parties(31 seats). The other is the “Yelk” Faction (in English, “Way Out”), a coalition of three liberal parties who came together prior to the 2017 Parliamentary election. They hold nine seats.

Two senior members of the Tsarukyan’s Alliance asked their party not to vote for Sarkisian’s appointment as Armenia’s new prime minister. One of the bloc’s leading parliamentarians, Sergey Bagratian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service, “Should an opposition faction vote for the government’s candidate or not? It’s a simple question. Naturally, if you are in opposition you will vote against the government’s candidate.” It is yet to be determined if the rest of the party will follow suit.

Meanwhile, yesterday, in a bizarre display of protest, two opposition deputies set off smoke flares during a session of parliament, hoping to attract public attention to join their demonstrations against Serge Sarkisian’s continued rule this Friday at Liberty Square.

A group of young people during the protest action closed the French Square of Yerevan (Photo: Photolure/Melik Baghdasaryan)

“Free citizens of the Republic of Armenia, the time has come to prevent Serge Sarkisian’s third term in office, put an end to [RPA] rule and build Armenia of our dreams,” cried Ararat Mirzoyan of the “Yelk” party. Other “Yelk” deputies did not appear to condone the gesture, an indicator that there may be increasing divisions within their already small front.

Karine Vann

Karine Vann

Karine Vann is a former editor of the Armenian Weekly. A musician who was deeply affected by the poverty and environmental degradation she observed living in Armenia from 2014 to 2017, she now covers topics at the intersection of consumerism and the environment for local and national publications as a journalist. In addition to writing for the Weekly, her work has appeared in Dig Boston, The Counter, Civil Eats and Waste Dive. To supplement her writing, she has worked in jobs traversing the Greater Boston area's food economy, from farming to fair trade spices. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and anxious beagle, Rasa.


  1. In the United States, any President who fails at economic advancement or US interests abroad generally doesn’t get a second chance. Jimmy Carter couldn’t get the second term because the economy went south and his dealings with Iran looked weak. Bush Sr got one term because similarly the economy went south during his presidency and he lied about raising taxes, claiming he will not, then raised the biggest in history. We have the Electoral College that ultimately makes the decision of who will be president in the US. Now in Armenia, Serjh has accomplished what exactly in the past 10 years for Armenians? Stopped then reversed emigration? No. Strengthened the economy? No. Despite many claims if he did that Armenians would have no reason to emigrate. So what did his administration do then? Put Azerbaijan in its place? This one is a HELL NO. For me as a diaspora Armenian, this is enough to give him the boot. How on earth does a leader of a nation make excuses why we shouldn’t get Artsakh land back especially in light of large parts of historic Artsakh is still under occupation? So I want to know, what did the current government do in the past 10 years to merit “more of the same”?? Oh wait a minute, I know. Serjh acted as a ‘yes man’ for Mother Russia. Apparently for Armenia this is all you need to be in a position of power.

  2. A disappointing and hopeless situation.
    A charade. The whole process is a shameful set up.Musical chairs similar to Putin’s games.
    A failed leader continues to govern.
    Corruption and oligarchs will continue to exploit and benefit at the expense of the population.
    No light at the end of the tunnel.
    Sadly, the country has become a “banana” republic.
    No effective opposition.
    A very dark picture.
    Vart Adjemian

  3. One soldier once asked Serjh about liberating western Armenian lands. The answer was “my generation did our part now it is up to your generation”. That would be a cool answer except for the incorrect make believe that he was anyone important in Artsakh. He wasn’t. And that person who actually did do something of importance in Artsakh, and who actually did make a difference is currently in jail on trumped up charges by his orders. Very conveniently he threw a patriotic hero of Artsakh into jail for not being afraid of telling the truth about the current government’s failings. I am actually dumbfounded by the lack of response and action from all of Armenians. If this didn’t bother you, then do not ever complain about Erdogan and Aliyev. The people of Armenia and the diaspora deserve Serjh. May he have a long and rewarding life at the expense of all the fools who think that the future of the nation is a dog and pony show.

  4. Armenians in diaspora, ne quiet please. It is us we are having to live in Armenia when you spit your lattes in comfy cars.And somebody collared the things run in USA with Armenia. What a nonsense!

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