Nikol Pashinyan has moved to gain full and direct control over a state agency that provides bodyguards to him and other senior Armenian officials.
The State Protection Service (SPS), which also protects key state buildings, is currently part of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS).
A bill approved by Pashinyan’s government on Thursday would separate the SPS from the NSS and make it directly subordinate to the prime minister. It is expected to be passed by the Armenian parliament controlled by ruling Civil Contract party.
Speaking during a government meeting on Thursday, Pashinyan said the proposed structural change is primarily aimed at helping the NSS “concentrate on its core functions,” notably counterintelligence, counterterrorism and “maintenance of constitutional order.”
Opposition lawmakers dismissed that explanation. One of them, Gegham Manukian, said that Pashinyan is simply keen to tighten his grip on Armenia’s security apparatus
“When Nikol Pashinyan was in opposition, he … accused the [former] authorities of excessive concentration of power,” Manukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “He has gone much farther by continuing to concentrate [control over] security agencies in his hands.”
The Armenian government drafted similar legislation in early 2021 but did not move to enact it at the time.
Pashinyan already plays a decisive role in the choice of the head of the state bodyguard agency. The latter is nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the president of the republic.