Gevorg Parsian, who runs the provincial capital Kapan and surrounding villages, still has two years left on his term in office. Opposition leaders in Yerevan say the Armenian authorities are trying to oust him, having jailed the mayors of four other Syunik towns at loggerheads with Prime Nikol Pashinian.
Eight of the Kapan council’s 15 members have tendered their resignations in recent days, meaning that a new local legislature will have to be elected this fall.
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service contacted six of them by phone on Friday. Two councilors refused to comment while the four others denied any political reasons behind their resignations.
Under a controversial law enacted by Pashinian’s political team last year, the heads of all urban communities of Armenia must be chosen not directly by voters but by local councils to be elected on a party-list basis. Indirect mayoral elections have until now been held only in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor.
The law means that the next Kapan council will have to appoint a new community head. Syunik’s acting governor, Narek Babayan, said his administration will ask the central government to formally schedule a fresh local election.
Parsian and most other elected Syunik officials demanded that Pashinian step down following Armenia’s defeat in last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh which also created serious security challenges for Syunik. The prime minister faced angry protests when he visited the region bordering Azerbaijan and Iran in May.
Four of those Syunik mayors are senior members of former President Robert Kocharian’s Hayastan bloc which finished second in snap parliamentary elections held in June 20. They were arrested last month on separate corruption charges rejected by them and Hayastan as politically motivated.
Anna Grigorian, a Syunik-born parliamentarian representing the opposition bloc, said the authorities have tried to prosecute Parsian as well. “But since they did not succeed, they are now trying to oust Mr. Parsian in this way,” she told reporters.
“The authorities have a special attitude towards Syunik because in the run-up to the [general] elections the community heads spoke up and said that these authorities must go because they are unable to ensure the country’s security,” claimed Grigorian.
Parsian did not return phone calls on Friday. His press secretary said he will comment on the matter in the coming days.
Babayan, the acting provincial governor affiliated with Pashinian’s party, insisted that the Kapan mayor is not under government pressure to resign.
At least three other provincial governors have reportedly exerted such pressure on opposition-linked heads of their rural communities, citing the outcome of the June 20 elections. Several elected village chiefs resigned last month.
Parsian, 35, supported Kocharian’s bloc in the parliamentary race but did not officially join it. He was elected mayor in a 2018 ballot held shortly after the “velvet revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. Parsian defeated Babayan at the time.