The board of trustees of Yerevan’s Brusov State University (BSU) voted to reappoint Karine Harutiunian as BSU rector on December 9. Harutiunian defeated another candidate for the post, who is thought to have enjoyed government support.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government reportedly tried to replace Harutiunian after she backed demonstrations staged by hundreds of students this fall in protest against government plans to merge BSU with two other state-run universities.
Deputy Prime Minister Hambardzum Matevosian, who headed the BSU board, and Education Minister Vahram Dumanian were sacked three days after the incumbent rector’s reelection. Media reports suggested that Pashinian thus punished Dumanian and Matevosian for their failure to install another rector.
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General announced on Monday that two criminal cases have been opened in connection with “hooliganism” and fraud allegedly committed during the BSU vote. A short statement released by the law-enforcement agency gave no details of the alleged violations.
Harutiunian refused to comment on the development. Tsolak Akopian, the dean of BSU’s Department of Social Sciences, brushed aside the prosecutors’ claims, saying that the authorities are simply trying to overturn the election results.
“This is just a form of persecution, one way of not validating the results of the rector’s election” Akopian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “I just don’t see any other explanation.”
The election was not marred by any incidents, Akopian said, adding that no university officials have been questioned by investigators so far. He also argued that Zhanna Andreasian, who replaced Dumanian as education minister later in December, was in charge of the ballot count and certified its results.
In line with Armenian law, the government had appointed half of the 20 BSU board members, including Andreasian. The ten other members were chosen by the university’s faculty and students.