Geopolitics of the Armenian President’s resignation

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian resigned from his position (Credits: President.am, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Armenian President’s resignation created another political crisis in the Caucasian republic, which, since the Velvet Revolution in 2018, has experienced domestic political instability, the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and its consequent defeat, the parliamentary elections and a new foreign policy marked by a broader approach towards Turkey and Azerbaijan.

On January 23rd, 2022, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian resigned, citing his inability to ‘influence’ domestic political life. Sarkissian started his presidential mandate in 2018 before the Velvet Revolution that marked current Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s rise to power. Therefore, the Armenian President was the ‘last man’ of the previous Government led by Serzh Sargsyan and the Hayastani Hanrapetakan Kusaktsutyun (the Republican Party of Armenia).

On Monday, January 24th, 2022, the Armenian Parliament Speaker, Alen Simonyan, announced at the beginning of the session that Armen Sarkissian could withdraw his resignation within a week; otherwise, it will be automatically accepted.

The Hayastani Hanrapetyut’yan Azgayin zhoghov (National Assembly of Armenia) elects the President of Armenia for seven years, and parliamentarians should accept his resignation. According to the Armenian Constitution, after the President leaves office, the National Assembly must elect a new head of State no later than 35 days.

Geopolitical scenario

  • Since the 2018 Velvet Revolution, Armenian has experienced several domestic and foreign problems and crises. Pashinyan’s new Government should have brought economic stability and fought corruption and, in the meanwhile, should have managed the ongoing ‘frozen conflict’ of Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan.
  • Before the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Pashinyan’s popularity had decreased due to the Prime Minister’s inability to realise a natural national economic recovery and the allegations of official rampant corruption. During the first two years of his mandate Pashinyan, who came into power thanks to a ‘colour revolution’ that the Kremlin has always looked suspicious, damaged the Armenian-Russian relations.
  • The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict was a complete defeat for Armenia. Yerevan and the Armenian population realised that the Azerbaijani military superiority linked to the Turkish and Israeli strategic support quickly overcame the old Armenian military system. The late Russian intervention to mediate the conflict, often interpreted as Moscow’s desire to punish Pashinyan and his entourage, avoided a complete catastrophe for Armenia but did not prevent Azerbaijani military victory and territorial conquest.
  • The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict generated frustration and anger in Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh in Armenian) and led to the early parliamentary elections won by Pashinyan. Although the majority of the Armenian population confirmed Pashinyan’s leadership, the previous electoral campaign showed an internal political division and the rise of Robert Kocharyan as the head of the Armenia Alliance Armenian parliamentary election: why matters?; L’Armenia dopo le elezioni parlamentari).
  • In foreign policy, Armenia was recently involved in normalising relations with Turkey and managing the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict’s peace process with Azerbaijan. Since the truce that Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev signed in Moscow in November 2020, the two parties have been involved in negotiations to stabilise the region and avoid further conflict. Moscow has been the promoter of the regional peace process and dialogue between Yerevan and Baku. However, the Armenians and the people who live in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh have conflicting opinions.

Why does it matter?

  • Armenian President’s resignation might strengthen Pashinyan’s leadership since Armen Sarkissian was linked to the previous Government of Serzh Sargsyan. Since the K’aghak’atsiakan paymanagir (Civil Contract) has 53% of the sets in the National Assembly, Nikol Pashinyan’s party might decisively impose its preference for the future Armenian President.
  • The presidential resignation might slow down negotiations and agreements with both Azerbaijan (over a controversial transportation project and border delimitation agreement) and Turkey (over normalising relations). With his resignation, Armen Sarkissian avoided signing several documents that will change Armenian foreign policy and relations with Baku and Ankara. The normalisation of Armenian-Azerbaijani-Turkish relations might promote that stabilisation which is necessary to realise infrastructural transport projects like the International North-South Transport Corridor promoted by Moscow.

For further information about the Republic of Armenia, it is possible to contact our team at info@specialeurasia.com or visit the dedicated section of Armenia. Furthermore, on January 27th, 2022, SpecialEurasia organises an event in the Italian language titled Webinar “Geopolitica e conflitti nel Caucaso: sfide attuali e sviluppi futuri”.