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Armenian Opposition Mayors Resign Under Government Pressure


Armenia - Mher Gevorgian, head of the Gyulagarak enlarged community of Lori province, talks to RFE/RL in his office, April 30, 2020.

The heads of at least three rural communities in Armenia’s northern Lori province supporting opposition groups have resigned, bowing to government pressure exerted on them after last month’s parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian pledged to wage “political vendettas” against opposition-linked local officials across the country during the election campaign. He claimed that they are forcing their subordinates to attend campaign rallies held by his political opponents.

A top aide to Pashinian effectively demanded their resignation shortly after the announcement of the official election results that gave victory to the ruling Civil Contract party. Armenian media outlets reported in the following days that several provincial governors are summoning pro-opposition village mayors and pressuring them to step down.

Lori’s Governor Aram Khachatrian said on June 29 that the election outcome amounted to a vote of no confidence in those mayors.

Arsen Titanian, the head of the village of Odzun supporting the opposition Hayastan bloc, claimed on June 23 to have been beaten up by Khachatrian’s subordinates inside the provincial administration building after telling the governor that he will not resign.

Law-enforcement launched a criminal investigation but have still not arrested or indicted anyone. Khachatrian denies ordering the alleged beating.

Hayastan was also openly backed during the parliamentary race by Mher Gevorgian, the longtime mayor of Gyulagarak and several smaller Lori villages making up a single community.

As recently as on June 29, Gevorgian insisted that he has no intention to quit. Nevertheless, he tendered his resignation on Tuesday.

“I want to take some rest,” Gevorgian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Wednesday. “I have worked nonstop for 23 years.

He said at the same time that he will run in the local election which will have to be held after his resignation. “My people love me and I love them,” he said. “I will run and win.”

The long-serving heads of two other Lori villages, Hartagyugh and Saralanj, have also stepped down in recent days. One of them claimed to have health problems while the other said he wants to engage in entrepreneurial activity.

Armenia - Lori Governor Aram Khachatrian.
Armenia - Lori Governor Aram Khachatrian.

Governor Khachatrian denied any connection between the resignations and his post-election statement. But he also reiterated that residents of the region bordering Georgia will soon “feel on their skin the power of the steel mandate” which he said the ruling party won in the recent general elections.

In a June 30 statement, the chairman of the Union of Communities of Armenia, which represents the country’s elected local administrations, condemned government attempts to get rid of dissident mayors as illegal and undemocratic.

Hayastan, which finished second in the June 20 elections, has also deplored the government pressure.

Individuals linked to the opposition bloc headed by former President Robert Kocharian have run many towns and villages in southeastern Syunik province. They demanded Pashinian’s resignation shortly after Armenia’s defeat in the autumn war with Azerbaijan.

Four Syunik mayors have been arrested this month on different charges rejected by them as politically motivated.

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