YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has named former Prime Minister Armen Sarkisian as the ruling Republican Party's nomination for the next president.
Armen Sarkisian, who is no relation to the outgoing president, was Armenia’s prime minister from 1996 to 1997 when he resigned from the post because of a respiratory illness.
He currently is Armenia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and, in accordance with recent constitutional reforms regarding the presidency, is not a member of any political party.
President Sarkisian, who heads the Republican Party, announced the nomination on January 19.
Earlier in January, President Sarkisian said the Republican Party's candidate should be a person who is not involved in politics and is highly regarded by Armenian society.
Following a referendum in December 2015, Armenia changed its form of government from a semipresidential to a parliamentary republic.
As a result, presidential veto powers are being stripped from the post and the presidency is being downgraded to a figurehead position elected by parliament every seven years rather than a direct popular vote.
The constitutional reforms coming into effect also limit an Armenian president to a single seven-year term.
Sceptics see the constitutional reforms as a way for incumbent President Sarkisian to maintain political control in Armenia by becoming prime minister when the mandate for his second five-year presidential term expires on April 9.
Armenia's Republican Party controls a simple majority in Yerevan's 113-seat, single-chamber legislature and is expected to approve President Sarkisian’s nominee in an early March vote.