The central square and St. Astvatsatsin Church in Vardenis, November 2020 (Photo AndyHM, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=95721587)

Post-Election Vardenis Political Divisions Continue

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VARDENIS — In the enlarged community of Vardenis (35 villages plus the town of Vardenis), post-election passions are not calming down, despite the fact that the community is in a border area and has more problems than domestic stability and unity.

In the Vardenis elections, the Civil Contract party received 6,163 votes, the Aharon Khachatryan bloc 4,989 and the United Vardenis bloc 2,205. The last two groups united to nominate Aharon Khachatryan as a candidate for community head, having 14 seats, compared to 13 in the municipal council.

Unfortunately, all attempts to hold a meeting of the municipal council after the elections failed for various reasons. Even the inauguration ceremony of Aharon Khachatryan, the candidate who won as a result of the coalition, was held in the courtyard of the city hall because the police did not allow him to enter the building. There are varying interpretations of the situation. According to Davit Shahnazaryan, a member of the municipal council of the United Vardenis faction, the police do everything to prevent the session from taking place. “We have not been provided with any justification. There are no facts as to why this is happening. I do not understand it,” he said.

Civil Contract candidate Aram Melkonyan blames his rivals for the situation. “There were incidents due to their improper conduct, and they took me to the police, after which no one was taken to the police.”

Shahnazaryan, a member of the United Vardenis alliance, claims that from the beginning when the Civil Contract did not get a majority in the municipal council, it took concrete actions. The number one of its bloc, Harutyunyan, was arrested, then imprisoned, and a recount reduced one of their representatives on the council. After all these difficulties, Khachatryan was elected, and this was legally, David Shahnazaryan is confident. He said, “We do not have a vulnerable legal side. What we have done, we have done within the boundaries of the law. It is legal and it conforms to the framework of the constitution of the Republic of Armenia. Illegal actions have been taken against us.”

Shahnazaryan, now a member of the municipal council, in an interview to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, also declared: “I do not see any legal obstacle at the moment, because the session of the municipal council was valid, the quorum was assured, the community leader was elected, and we have exhausted all the issues on the agenda.”

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An unusual situation was created when the elections ended on December 5, but the people still cannot understand who their community leader is, because Melkonyan did not give the winning candidate the seal of the municipality and the office key, no handover was held, and Khachatryan already celebrated his victory.

“We have not seen such a thing in our whole life. We lived here during the Soviet years, but we do not remember this kind of thing. This is a disgrace. The Turks are at the entrances to Vardenis but inside, a battle for seats takes place. Shame on those responsible for this situation!” said one resident of Vardenis.

Hakob Avetyan, the head of the Geghamasar community, which is included in the Vardenis district, claims that the ruling party is carrying out political persecutions against the opposition.

“This is an order. This is a shame. This is a disgrace. They have 13 mandates [elected council candidates], we have 14. How can they not understand that 14 is greater than 13,” he said. Resorting to wordplay, he exclaimed, “The Civil Contract has started a civil struggle in Vardenis.”

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