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Provincial Governor Resigns After Election Setback


Armenia - Shirak Governor Hovhannes Harutiunian.

The governor of Armenia’s northwestern Shirak province was relieved of his duties on Thursday more than two weeks after the ruling Civil Contract party’s failure to win a municipal election in the provincial capital Gyumri.

Hovannes Harutiunian topped the list of the party’s candidates for the October 17 election marked by a very low voter turnout. In a serious setback for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Civil Contract finished second with about 30 percent of the vote. It trailed a local political group linked to Gyumri’s outgoing mayor, Samvel Balasanian.

Harutiunian held a farewell news conference in Gyumri hours after Pashinian’s government formally accepted his resignation. He insisted that he was not forced to resign.

“As soon as it was decided that I will be leading the list of Civil Contract’s local election candidates it became obvious that regardless of the outcome of the election I will not hold the post of Shirak governor anymore,” he said. “What happened today is a logical continuation of that decision.”

“We need to understand why our citizens didn’t want to go to the polls,” Harutiunian said when asked about reasons for the ruling party’s failure to install Gyumri’s next mayor. Pashinian’s party respects any decision made by voters, he added.

Despite the election defeat, Civil Contract reached a power-sharing agreement with the election winner, the Balasanian Bloc, whose top candidate, Vardges Samsonian, was elected as Gyumri mayor by the new city council on Monday. As part of that deal, the ruling party will name the two deputy mayors and other senior officials in the municipal administration.

The deal was signed on October 30 two days after two senior Gyumri officials affiliated with the Balasanian Bloc were arrested by Armenia’s National Security Service on corruption charges. The bloc did not publicly allege political reasons behind the arrests.

Some Armenian outlets reported earlier in October that the Balasanian Bloc is facing strong pressure from the central government to cut a power-sharing deal with Pashinian’s party and even cede the post of mayor to it. Senior party figures denied such pressure.

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