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Deputy PM Resigns, Cites Differences With Ruling Party


Armenia -- Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian chairs a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, November 28, 2019.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian on Monday announced his resignation and revealed that he had differences with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian during the recent parliamentary race.

Avinian, 32, is a senior member of the ruling Civil Contract party who actively participated in the 2018 mass protests that brought Pashinian to power. He was appointed as deputy prime shortly after the “velvet revolution.”

In a Facebook post, Avinian said he did not participate in Civil Contract’s parliamentary election campaign because he objected to its list of candidates for the snap polls held on June 20. He said he felt that it may be at odds with the “separation of business and politics” championed by Pashinian’s political team.

“Nevertheless, I am convinced that the separation of business and politics will remain an irreversible principle for our team and that it will manage possible risks,” he wrote. “I will stay on as a member of Civil Contract’s board and do my best to help ensure that all reforms launched by us in 2018 continue.”

Avinian appeared to refer to the presence of at least two wealthy businessmen on the party’s electoral list. Both tycoons, Khachatur Sukiasian and Gurgen Arsenian, were elected to the parliament.

Pashinian stated shortly after the 2018 regime change that Armenian entrepreneurs no longer need to hold parliament seats in order to protect and expand their assets.

Avinian also defended on Monday his and his government’s track record, saying that they have managed to prevent a “collapse of the economy” during the coronavirus pandemic and last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh. They have also created “real prerequisites for development,” he said.

The statement came a few hours after Suren Papikian, another senior Civil Contract figure who has served as minister of territorial administration and infrastructures, was named deputy prime minister. Papikian was in turn replaced by Gnel Sanosian, the governor of Armenia’s Gegharkunik province.

Pashinian also reappointed his ministers of environment and labor and social affairs and installed Major-General Arshak Karapetian as defense minister. Karapetian’s appointment has been widely anticipated in recent weeks.

There were no indications that Mher Grigorian, the other vice-premier appointed in 2018, will lose his job as a result of the ongoing cabinet reshuffle. Grigorian is a former banker not affiliated with any party.

The reshuffle began after President Armen Sarkissian formally reappointed Pashinian as prime minister following the start of the inaugural session of the new Armenian parliament. Pashinian’s party has a solid majority in the parliament, having won the recent elections.

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