A prominent associate of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian lambasted the governor of Armenia’s central Kotayk province on Monday, blaming him for the ruling Civil Contract party’s defeat in a recent local election.
Sasun Mikaelian also warned that the current Armenia authorities will risk a “velvet exit” from power unless they “learn lessons” from the defeat suffered by them in Abovian, a major town in Kotayk located 15 kilometers north of Yerevan.
Abovian’s incumbent Mayor Vahan Gevorgian backed by the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) narrowly defeated Civil Contract’s Grigor Gulian in the tense election held on June 9. Both Pashinian and Kotayk Governor Romanos Petrosian personally campaigned for Gulian.
Petrosian openly complained after the vote that Mikaelian, who is influential in the area, failed to help the pro-government candidate during the mayoral race.
Mikaelian admitted sympathizing with the Abovian mayor, praising the latter’s track record. He insisted, however, that he did not help Gevorgian win reelection.
“I did not stab Civil Contract in the back,” he told reporters. “I did not tell anyone to go and vote for the incumbent mayor. There was no such thing. Civil Contract lost the Abovian election because of Romanos, because he personalized his role in the Abovian election.”
Mikaelian claimed that Petrosian overestimates his political authority as well as his role in last year’s “velvet revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. “And if we don’t learn lessons, this velvet revolution will turn into our velvet exit,” he warned.
Mikaelian also dismissed Petrosian’s claims that the Abovian vote ended in victory for the country’s former “criminal-oligarchic” system. He said that government-appointed governor himself is surrounded by individuals linked to the former ruling regime.
A veteran politician and prominent participant of the 1991-1994 in Nagorno-Karabakh, Mikaelian was Civil Contract’s nominal chairman until a party congress held on June 16. Delegates of the congress unexpectedly failed to elect him to the party’s new governing board, suggesting that they too held Mikaelian responsible for the Abovian fiasco.
Mikaelian downplayed his exclusion from the board. He blamed it on “infighting” in Civil Contract, saying that some party figures “formed teams” of loyalists to further their political interests. But he declined to name them.
Hrachya Hakobian, another senior Civil Contract member, disagreed with Mikaelian’s statements. Hakobian, who is also Pashinian’s brother-in-law, said the Kotayk governor is not responsible for the outcome of the mayoral election. “Mistakes may have been made but not by the governor,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Another senior party figure, deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian, denied rifts within Civil Contract. He also said: “Time will tell whether or not that ‘velvet exit’ will occur or is a science fiction thing.”