Armine Poghosian, who works at a local hospital for infectious disease, was 122nd on the electoral list of the Pativ Unem bloc, one of the two opposition groups to be represented in Armenia’s new parliament. She took an unpaid leave of absence for the duration of the 12-day election campaign.
Poghosian said that during the campaign the hospital’s acting director, Astghik Apinian, told her that the administration of Lori province, of which Vanadzor is the capital, wants her to quit her job. She said it threatened to sue her if she rejects the demand which she linked to her political activities.
“I replied that I will not write a letter [of resignation,] let them take me to court,” Poghosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “I don’t know what they were going to sue me for. I told them to fire me if they can.”
Apinian said that the head of the provincial administration’s healthcare department, Ruzanna Poghosian (no relation to Armine), told her to “warn Armine so that she is dismissed at her own request.” “I communicated that [to the nurse,]” she said, adding that the latter refused to quit.
The hospital chief told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that she also objected to the resignation because she considers Poghosian one of the best employees of the hospital lab. The provincial official made no further attempts to get rid of the nurse who has worked at the hospital for almost 30 years, she said.
The official refused to comment on the allegations.
Meanwhile, Lori Governor Aram Khachatrian, who heads the regional branch of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, insisted that he never ordered her to have the nurse dismissed. Also, he again denied pressuring other pro-opposition local officials and public sector employees to resign.
Shortly after Civil Contract’s victory in the June 20 elections, Khachatrian controversially demanded the resignation of elected heads of Lori’s rural communities supporting opposition forces. At least four such officials have stepped down since then.
Another community chief 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. Khachatrian denies that.
Artur Vanetsian, who co-heads Pativ Unem together with former President Serzh Sarkisian, was the first to publicize the alleged government pressure on the Vanadzor nurse in an interview with Armenian Public Television aired on Wednesday evening. “Our teammates are now fired because of their political views,” he said.
Several senior public sector employees openly supporting the Armenian opposition are known to have been fired before or right after the snap polls.
They include the directors of two schools in the country’s northwestern Shirak province and a policlinic in the provincial capital Gyumri. Shirak Governor Hovannes Harutiunian denied on June 29 that the sackings were politically motivated.
Poghosian, the Vanadzor nurse, may still lose her job because of staff cuts expected as a result of a 2019 decision by the Armenian government to merge her hospital with a larger medical center located in the city. Some of her colleagues received earlier this week written notices informing them that they will be laid off on August 31.