New Armenia PM Nikol Pashinyan Sacks Police, Security Service Chiefs

Armenia’s new Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan commenced his obligations on Thursday by sacking the head of police and security service chiefs.

“I’ve just signed a statement to the president about relieving the police chief Vladimir Gasparyan and security service head Georgi Kutoyan of their duties,” the politician wrote on his Facebook page.

Yerevan’s deputy police chief Valeri Osipyan, who took part in negotiations with the organizers of the recent street protests, was nominated to lead the country’s police force.

Pashinyan underlined the symbolism of the appointment.

“During the demonstrations, we were on a different side of the barricade from Valeri Osipyan. I decided… that we will be on the same side,” he wrote.

Artur Vanetsyan, who is currently head of the security services in the Armenian capital, was appointed to the national role.

“The National Security Service must perform a serious function in the fight against corruption, which we must wipe out very quickly from Armenia,” the prime minister said as he announced the personnel change.

The country’s defense and finance ministers earlier said they would not serve in a new government, which has to be formed within a fortnight of the prime minister’s election.

Parliament elected Pashinyan this week after he spearheaded weeks of mass protests against the ruling party, transforming the country’s political landscape.

Critics accused longtime leader Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican party of corruption, being under the influence of powerful oligarchs and of failing to tackle widespread poverty.

The hugely popular Pashinyan had in recent weeks piled pressure on the Republicans through an unprecedented campaign of civil disobedience, leading to Sarkisian’s shock resignation, a week after he shifted to the newly-empowered role of prime minister after serving for 10 years as president.

The election of Pashinyan, a former newspaper editor who spent time in prison for fomenting unrest, marked a dramatic rupture with the cadre of rulers who have run Armenia since the late 1990s.

Pashinyan said ahead of the vote that he would work to eradicate corruption and ensure “a normal life in the country”.

Political analysts say Pashinyan’s election is unlikely to put an end to the political crisis, as the ruling party retains a majority in parliament and could well block his initiatives.

Analyst Vigen Akopyan said snap elections looked certain.

Another analyst, Stepan Safaryan, said Armenia was now entering “an interesting period of disequilibrium”.

Pending fresh elections “Pashinyan must maneuver between the will of the people and the parliamentary ruling party that he does not belong to and which cannot begin supporting him”, he said.

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