A winter view of Vardenis in 2009 (photo Wikimedia Commons)

The Opposition Wins in Vardenis Election, Its Candidate Is Arrested

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YEREVAN — The United Vardenis alliance of political parties on December 15 appealed the results of the recount of votes in the recent enlarged Vardenis community elections, as a result of which the December 18 session of the council of elders was postponed. United Vardenis, the Aharon Khachatryan coalition, and the Civil Contract political party led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan were the rivals in this recent local election. The outgoing head of the Geghamasar community Hakob Avetyan provided information about the situation.

Hakob Avetyan

As background, the Geghamsar community was created in 2018 as an administrative unit including 18 villages. The changes in local government districts enlarged the Vardenis community to include Geghamsar along with another similar community of 18 villages, so that Avetyan’s position will no longer exist after the winner of the current election is installed in office. He did not run for a position in the current local elections but is a supporter of United Vardenis.

Map of 2020 Karabakh war ceasefire with Armenia including Vardenis (Mapeh, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

United Vardenis is a coalition of several local political parties which do not have nation-wide representation, but in general support former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan’s Hayastan Alliance nationally. The majority of its supporters are Armenians who had to flee from various territories under Azerbaijan’s control in the late 1980s.

Aharon Khachatryan leads a second eponymous coalition, which is supported primarily by Armenians who settled the area from the Ottoman Empire much earlier, in the early 19th century. Khachatryan was a community administrative leader in the Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan eras, and his coalition also opposes the Civil Contract. The local Civil Contract candidates benefit from support at a provincial and national level from the party and even to a degree from state institutions. Aram Melkonyan, the head of the list of the party’s candidates, is the current mayor of Vardenis city.

According to the results of the December 5 local elections in the enlarged community of Vardenis (in Gegharkunik Province), the Civil Contract party received 12 seats, the Aharon Khachatryan coalition of political parties 10 seats, and the United Vardenis coalition of party 5 seats. Based on these election results, the Aharon Khachatryan bloc of parties and the United Vardenis bloc of parties signed a statement on cooperation and the joint formation of local government bodies.

The Civil Contract party appealed the election results and submitted a recount application. As a result of the recount, the votes of the Aharon Khachatryan bloc decreased by 4, those of the Civil Contract increased by 1, and those of the United Vardenis bloc decreased by one.

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Hakob Avetyan stated that United Vardenis appealed the results of the recount in the Administrative Court, while the session of the Vardenis Council of Elders, which was to take place on December 18, was postponed until the announcement of the court decision. He added that the court will probably announce its decision on December 18 or 20.

It should be noted that after the local government elections, a decision was made to detain Aram Harutyunyan, who heads the list of the United Vardenis bloc. Lawyers provided through the Hayastan Alliance are defending Harutyunyan.

According to Avetyan, this detainment is another attempt by the government to put pressure on the opposition. “We consider his arrest unfounded. Where the opposition wins, its candidate is arrested,” Avetyan concluded.

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