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Public Council Head Quits Amid Criticism From Lawmakers


Vazgen Manukian during a press conference in Yerevan, October 30, 2019

Chairman of Armenia’s Public Council Vazgen Manukian has announced his resignation and departure from the body after days of criticism led by lawmakers and other representatives of the governing bloc over his alleged political bias.

In a letter addressed to members of the Council on Wednesday Manukian described his further activities in the structure as pointless.

“The new authorities had a unique opportunity to lead our country towards development, to consolidate our people around national issues and to contribute to the well-being of our citizens by building a more democratic and more effective national state. Unfortunately, the authorities took a different path, and today an atmosphere of mistrust and hatred of an unprecedented level has been formed in our country; our society is split in a way it has never been split before,” Manukian wrote in his letter published by the Public Council’s press service.

The veteran politician said he had repeatedly sought a meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian “to find the ground for cooperation to ease tensions in society and prevent, through the Public Council, some steps that in my opinion are dangerous for the State.” But he said his attempts to get such a meeting had failed.

“In such conditions I consider my further activities in the Public Council to be pointless and quit the Council, about which I have already notified the government in writing,” Manukian added.

Manukian, who served as Armenia’s defense minister and prime minister in the 1990s and was an official runner-up in the country’s presidential election in 1996, has headed the Public Council since its establishment by the administration of former President Serzh Sarkisian in 2008.

The advisory body consisting of several dozen public figures has repeatedly been criticized for its irrelevance and lack of impact.

In recent weeks several Armenian lawmakers resumed the criticism. In late October MP Arman Babajanian, who is not affiliated with any parliamentary faction, demanded that Prime Minister Pashinian dismiss Manukian. He accused the Public Council’s head of making “biased political statements.”

Deputy Parliament Speaker Alen Simonian representing Pashinian’s My Step alliance went as far as describing the Manukian-led Council as a “meaningless and useless body.”

My Step discussed the issue of Manukian’s continued chairmanship in the body at a meeting with Pashinian on November 4. Three days later Manukian claimed that pro-government circles had stepped up their criticism of the Public Council, implying that he was under serious pressure to resign.

Referring to Manukian’s case, former government officials and other political circles critical of the Pashinian government have condemned Armenia’s current authorities for allegedly clamping down on dissent. The authorities have dismissed such accusations.

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