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Armenian Governor Denies Political Sackings


Armenia - Shirak Governor Hovhannes Harutiunian.

The governor of Armenia’s northwestern Shirak province has denied allegations that he fired the directors of two local schools and a policlinic because they supported the main opposition Hayastan alliance in this month’s parliamentary elections.

All three officials were sacked by the governor, Hovannes Harutiunian, in the run-up to the June 20 elections won by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party.

Both school principals said over the weekend that they have challenged Harutiunian’s decisions in court. Arpine Nikoghosian, who ran the provincial capital Gyumri’s School No. 38, claimed that she was fired because of being affiliated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun)

Dashnaktsutyun is a key member of the opposition Hayastan bloc led by former President Robert Kocharian. The bloc finished second in the elections, according to their official results.

Also dismissed were Karine Ghazarian, the principal of a school in the Shirak village of Geghanist, and Ayvaz Sukiasian, who managed Gyumri’s state Policlinic No. 1. They both declined to comment on their sackings. Ghazarian said only that she has asked a local court to annul her dismissal.

Hovannes Asoyan, a Hayastan leader in Shirak, insisted that the three officials lost their jobs as a result of ongoing “political persecution” of the opposition group’s local activists and well-known supporters.

Harutiunian, who is affiliated with the ruling party, denied that the sackings were politically motivated.

“As regards dismissals and hiring of people, it’s a natural working process that cannot be linked to political processes,” the Shirak governor told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Still, he did not clearly explain why he fired the two school principals and the policlinic chief.

During the 12-day election campaign Pashinian pledged to “purge” the state bureaucracy and wage “political vendettas” against local government officials supporting the opposition. Shortly after the announcement of the election results, his chief of staff, Arsen Torosian, effectively demanded that elected heads of local communities supporting the opposition step down.

Visiting Gyumri on June 23, Justice Minister Rustam Badasian said Pashinian’s administration is planning a “systemic vetting” of state officials.

Armenian media outlets reported in the following days that several provincial governors are summoning pro-opposition village mayors and pressuring them to resign.

One of those mayors claimed to have been beaten up inside the Lori provincial administration building moments after refusing to quit. Although the Lori governor, Aram Khachatrian, denied the assault, law-enforcement authorities launched a criminal investigation.

The Hayastan leadership issued a statement last week condemning the pressure allegedly exerted on the local government officials as illegal.

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