Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   21 January

Our most important goal is to ensure progress – speech of candidate of Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan

YEREVAN, APRIL 17, ARMENPRESS.  Candidate of Prime Minister of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan gave a speech at the National Assembly session discussing the election of the PM.  ARMENPRESS presents the full text of the speech.

“Honorable President of the National Assembly,
Dear Members of Parliament,

First of all, I am grateful to the Republican Party of Armenia and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation for nominating and defending my candidacy for the office of Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia.

Thank you for the comprehensive and useful debate we went through together over the past few months.

Dear Members of Parliament,

Two and a half years ago, this very hall faced a heated debate as we discussed the draft of the constitutional reform. The draft became a constitution, laying the groundwork for drastic changes in our political system, the content of the political struggle and the tasks assumed by the actors in the State system. In recent months and days, we could witness the new constitution take effect in terms of its content and philosophy. We are the participants of a fresh start together with you.

As with any new start, what matters most now is the way to proceed. To finalize the parliamentary form of government, we are forming today a government in Parliament, the first step of which is the Prime Minister’s nomination by the National Assembly.

Professionals, scholars and politicians concur in the opinion that no form of government can claim to be perfect. I am of the same opinion. Any form of government that meets the minimum formal constitutional standards can be propitious in terms of democracy. Whereas an ill-balanced form of government can impair the balance of power between the wings of government, lead to ineffective management, conflicting situations with all its adverse consequences.

While during the first years of independence we prioritized institutional development and consolidation of the political administration; in other words, we held to political stability and manageability, today we can state that these objectives have been met, as a whole, and we are moving towards the target of dynamic development.

In the first years of independence, dominant was the approach of relying on the President’s authority in order to ensure stability and development in the country. In those years, the apprehension of the potential chaos prevailed over the fear of vesting too many powers in the President of the Republic.

The need for a strong presidential power was substantiated by the fact that it gave the opportunity to mobilize the existing economic and political resources and take the right decisions a swiftly as possible in order to efficiently address the outstanding issues and eventually defy the emerging challenges.

We should also state today that the presidential or semi-presidential forms of government had no alternative in the first years of independence. Meanwhile, it seems to be obvious that the priority of having a balanced, well-controlled and competent authority is as much important at the present stage of development, with harmonious terms of reference and responsibilities of each branch of authority. And this, in our view, can best be achieved through parliamentary democracy.

The amended constitution is based on the following essential provisions:
As a legislative entity, the National Assembly forms a government and exercises control over it;
The executive power is consolidated and steered by the government;
The law-courts are independent, accountable only to the law;
The President is the Head of State, non-partisan and impartial in the exercise of powers; Governed solely by national and all-national interests, the President sees over the enforcement of the Constitution.

The amended constitution of 2015 reserves key role to the National Assembly and, at the same time, gives sufficient autonomy to the government in developing and implementing the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

The scheme envisages mechanisms of cooperation between the legislative and executive authorities with the purpose of avoiding systemic conflicts.

The Constitution suggests adequate solutions for the government’s stability, parliamentary oversight and the role of parliamentary minority.

The Constitution gives the Prime Minister a pivotal role in the coordination of the activities of public entities. The parliamentary form of government implies that the Prime Minister is the leader of the ruling party.

Having a key role in the future governance, the Prime Minister cannot in any case be identified with the President of the semi-presidential model. In contrast to the semi-presidential form of governance, here the Prime Minister is the head of the executive power under the permanent control of the National Assembly. By the way, the Prime Minister can be changed due to political considerations.

From this point of view, the role and authority reserved for the parliamentary minority is crucial. In the context of this form of government, the main political dividing line is not between the government and the parliament, but between the political majority and the parliamentary minority. The Constitution gives the parliamentary minority a role and sufficient weight to counterbalance the executive power by making its shortfalls open for public debate.

In the framework of the parliamentary form of government, the government has a civil responsibility before the National Assembly. The government exercises its activity with the support of the political majority.

This system rules out the contradiction between the government and the parliamentary majority. There are actually zero chances for anyone to become Prime Minister without the support of the parliamentary majority. The parliamentary form of government has great potential for abiding by and keeping to this philosophy. Any deviation from it is fraught with instability and inefficiency.

While the Prime Minister has a well-pronounced administrative role in countries with the parliamentary form of government, however, the parliamentary form of government features elements of non-personification and collective management. Indeed, we cannot deny the role of individuals in the system of governance. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that the elements of party management are as much important in this system.

Dear Colleagues,

Today, we are electing our parliamentary country’s Prime Minister. As we are doing it for the first time, objectively we have little experience in this matter: in particular, from which point we should consider the question, what should be taken into account, what is of primary importance and what is not. But the logic of choice is clear and derives from the Constitution, as well as the political experience of other States with parliamentary governance. 
As I already mentioned, this system implies equivalent rights and responsibilities, including the political ones. Under this system, the Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party in the parliament and this is not accidental.

It is also supposed to ensure personal responsibility of the political leader for the political force. I consider that the so-called hidden management mechanisms are wrong and harmful to Armenia, when the leader of a political force can actually rule the country without holding a State office. That is a means of escaping responsibility and a way of finding a scapegoat for failures. In a country facing a blockade and a de facto war, the ruling party leader’s attempt to exercise the powers of Prime Minister latently would not only mean a political weakness and avoidance of responsibility, but it might also undermine the vertical of power, import elements of dual authority with all its negative consequences.

This is especially dangerous when it comes to national mobilization and the imperative to consolidate all resources and neutralize the external threats, against which unfortunately we are not safeguarded.

As the leader of the Republican Party, I consider it inadmissible to avoid personal responsibility. I have never done so and I am not going to. That is why I am at this podium today.

Here, the question may arise: could I not see this day coming from the very outset as we initiated the constitutional reform when I announced that I was not going to pretend to the post of prime minister in case of switching over to parliamentary democracy? I did of course, and have already had the opportunity to talk about it.

Again, I will not speak about the political context or the lack of my ambitions, but I will evoke an idea that stems from what I said in my opening remarks.

Today, standing at this podium is not the individual political figure-statesman Serzh Sargsyan, nor the third President of the Republic of Armenia. It is not question of any of them. Today’s voting is not about approving one or the other. Today, the floor has been given to the Chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), which enjoys a political majority in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia.

I am here as the leader of the ruling party to state in favor of my candidacy that I have enough influence and capabilities to ensure our party’s harmonious work as parliamentary majority within the legislative and executive branches of government.

I shall repeat as follows:
- “The parliamentary system of governance precludes any controversy between the government and the parliamentarian majority.” I am ready to ensure that such contradiction is ruled out.

- “The parliamentary system precludes the existence of a prime minister who does not enjoy the support of the parliamentary majority.”

I do have the majority’s support, and I am ready to make it serve the cause of our country’s dynamic development.

This is the reality that forces me to be the driving force of our political coalition. It is the comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing the country at this stage of development that forces us to be at the forefront of the political program presented to the public.

Dear Colleagues,

Today, I will not go into the program’s details. Obviously, the political force that came into power is going to implement the program through which society has received a vote through its government. Therefore, irrespective of anything, the first-ever government formed under the parliamentary model of governance will implement the programs of the Republican Party of Armenia and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.

Certainly, we will amend and update the program considering this year’s developments. There will be an opportunity to speak about it in detail and introduce it to the parliament. I should only say that security will continue to be our number one priority. Our position on the peaceful settlement of the Artsakh issue is unchanged and, accordingly, the consistent strengthening and modernization of the Armenian Army is a matter of everyday work. Our most important goal is to ensure progress, in which direction we will continue to build and strengthen our programs.

Yes, today we have positive foreign policy results, which give us a great deal of strength. Yes, we have reached such a level of internal stability that positively predetermines the dynamics of economic indicators. These trends should be continued.

All policy targets shall be considered from the perspective of improving Armenia’s demographic situation. Along with ensuring dynamic development, we will highlight the availability of favorable conditions for improved demographic indicators.

Our detailed views on these and other issues will be voiced at the National Assembly during the presentation of the Government Program. The Program is currently being updated and finalized by the joint coalition working group.

Thank you for your attention. I am ready to answer your questions, if any”.

English –translator/editor: Tigran Sirekanyan

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