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Armenian President Unexpectedly Resigns

President Armen Sarkisian (left) meets with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in November 2020.
President Armen Sarkisian (left) meets with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in November 2020.

Armenian President Armen Sarkisian has resigned from the largely ceremonial position, citing a lack of power to influence policy during times of national crisis.

"The president does not have the necessary tools to influence the fundamental processes of domestic and foreign policy in the current difficult period for the country and the nation," Sarkisian said on January 23 in a statement on his official website.

"This is absolutely not an emotional decision, but a decision that comes from a certain logic," the 69-year-old Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian has been critical of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian over a number of issues, especially during the fallout from a six-week war with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region that ended with a Russian-brokered peace deal.

Armenian forces lost control over large parts of the region and surrounding districts, while Azerbaijan was able to recapture territory lost in an early 1990s separatist conflict.

Sarkisian criticized being left out of negotiations to end the war and later objected when Pashinian fired Armenia's military leaders amid anti-government protests.

Under the constitution, Armenia is a parliamentary republic where the head of the executive is prime minister.

"The question may arise as to why the president failed to influence the political events that led us to the current national crisis. The reason is obvious again -- the lack of appropriate tools -- the constitution. The roots of some of our potential problems are hidden in the current basic law," Sarkisian said.

"I hope that eventually constitutional changes will be implemented and the next president and presidential administration will be able to operate in a more balanced environment," the statement added, calling for more checks and balances on power.

Sarkisian, a former prime minister and longtime ambassador to the United Kingdom, was elected president by parliament in March 2018 for a seven-year term. It was not immediately clear who will replace him.

Under the constitution, an extraordinary election of the president must be held 25 to 35 days after the office is left vacant.

With reporting by Reuters

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