Sarkisian Dismisses National Security Staff

President Serzh Sarkisian meeting with the National Security Council in Yerevan on July 2, 2016.
President Serzh Sarkisian meeting with the National Security Council in Yerevan on July 2, 2016.

President Serzh Sarkisian meeting with the National Security Council in Yerevan on July 2, 2016. (Photo: president.am)

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—President Serzh Sarkisian moved on Wednesday to upgrade the status of his National Security Council in line with recent sweeping amendments to Armenia’s constitution.

In a decree made public by his press office, Sarkisian made changes in the statutes and structure of the presidential staff which are meant to turn the advisory council into a “decision-making body.”

He also issued a separate order to dissolve the council’s administrative staff and replace it with a presumably more powerful “secretariat.”

The council comprises Armenia’s prime minister, parliament speaker, justice minister and top defense and law-enforcement officials. It played a major role during the 1991-1998 rule of President Levon Ter-Petrosyan but has been a largely ceremonial body under Sarkisian and his predecessor Robert Kocharian.

This might explain why the post of secretary of the National Security Council was vacant for two years. Its previous holder, Artur Baghdasarian, resigned after his Orinats Yerkir party decided to withdraw from Sarkisian’s coalition government.

In early June, Baghdasarian was replaced as council secretary by Armen Gevorgian, a former top aide to Kocharian who served Armenia’s deputy prime minister from 2008-2014.

Hakob Badalian, a political analyst, said the council’s bigger role could have important implications for Armenian government affairs. “The very fact that the National Security Council is being turned from an advisory into decision-making body … will certainly introduce new elements into intra-governmental relationships,” he said. “This is why it’s really interesting.”

Badalian suggested that the move was precipitated by the July 17 armed attack on a police compound in Yerevan which resulted in a tense two-week standoff between security forces and opposition gunmen demanding Sarkisian’s resignation.

Several high-ranking law-enforcement officials were sacked shortly after the gunmen surrendered to the authorities on July 31. They included the first deputy director of Armenia’s National Security Service.

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