In a surprise move, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government on Tuesday appointed a retired general, who was Armenia’s second most powerful police official during former President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule, as a provincial governor.
Lieutenant-General Hunan Poghosian was named to run the southeastern Syunik province five months after resigning as first deputy chief of the Armenian police following Pashinian-led mass protests that toppled Sarkisian’s government. He had held that position since 2010.
Poghosian tendered his resignation immediately after Pashinian appointed one of his subordinates, Colonel Valeri Osipian, as new head of the national police service on May 10. He gave no clear reasons for his exit.
The new government’s decision to give the vacant post of Syunik governor to Poghosian therefore took many by surprise. Some Pashinian supporters criticized it, saying that the police general was closely linked to the former ruling regime accused of corruption and human rights abuses.
Pashinian acknowledged that the appointment may seem “strange” seeing as Poghosian was “on the other side of the barricades” during his nationwide campaign of anti-government protests. He said it is part of his efforts to “consolidate” the nation after last spring’s dramatic upheavals.
“I find it very important to ensure that as a result of the revolution nobody feels that their [professional] life in Armenia is finished,” Pashinian told a cabinet meeting in Yerevan. “Accordingly, we must not allow the emergence of a phenomenon which can tentatively be called political racism.”
“There are times for building barricades and dismantling them, and I hope that we are getting close to the latter point,” he said.
Poghosian, meanwhile, dismissed critics’ claims that he was a loyal “servant” of the former ruling regime. “Only slavish people can probably think so,” he told reporters. “I have always served the law and the people.”
“I’m a supporter of New Armenia and I will do everything to help ensure that everything is alright in New Armenia,” added the 54-year-old.
Poghosian’s latest appointment was made possible by Pashinian’s decision earlier this month to sack all government ministers and provincial governors affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia and Dashnaktsutyun parties. The premier accused his coalition partners parties of assisting Sarkisian’s Republicans in their efforts to scuttle his plans to force snap parliamentary elections in December.