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Arayik Harutyunyan resigns as president of Nagorno-Karabakh

31 August 2023
Arayik Harutyunyan. Official Photo.

The president of Nagorno-Karabakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, has announced his resignation, along with the second most senior official, State Minister Gurgen Nersisyan.

In a statement on Facebook, Harutyunyan suggested that holding on to the post could be an impediment to negotiations with the Azerbaijani government.

‘My biography and Azerbaijan's attitude towards it artificially create a number of conditions that cause significant problems from the point of view of building our next steps and conducting a flexible policy.’ 

‘In addition, the defeat in the war and the subsequent difficulties in the country have significantly reduced the trust in the authorities, especially the President, which has seriously hindered the further course of proper governance. Therefore, the change must start with me.’

He added that the move was aimed at ensuring ‘internal stability and strong public order’ in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Harutyunyan wrote that he would formally present his resignation on Friday, adding that Nersisyan would be replaced by Samvel Shahramanyan, the former head of the region’s Security Council.

Just 10 days before his resignation, Harutyunyan signed into law changes that would allow parliament to appoint his successor.


The changes state that during martial law, if a president leaves office early then parliament should appoint a replacement to carry out the remainder of their term. Nagorno-Karabakh has remained under martial law since the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. Haratunyan’s current term was due to end in 2025.

Parliament is expected to elect the new president within 10 days of the incumbent president’s resignation.

Removing ‘obligations’ to Pashinyan

Rumours of Harutyunyan’s possible resignation had circulated in local media in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh for days, with the president’s office initially refuting the speculation. 

Harutyunan’s resignation has been a subject of discussion since the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, with the president initially promising to resign once the situation had ‘normalised’. 

Opinions in Nagorno-Karabakh have been divided, with many viewing new elections in the region as a potential pretext for Baku to launch a military operation. 

After the start of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh in December last year, discussions of government changes were pushed into the background. 

His resignation also comes soon after Russian–Armenian billionaire and former state minister Ruben Vardanyan demanded he step down. 

On 21 August, Vardanyan accused Harutyunyan of promising to resign but not keeping his word. Several days earlier, a government militia entered Nagorno-Karabakh’s parliament to express support for Harutyunyan.

[Read more: Militia entered Nagorno-Karabakh parliament to ‘back President Harutyunyan’]

Harutyunyan had briefly shared power with Vardanyan, who received extended powers as State Minister between late 2022 and early 2023.

The head of the opposition Justice Party, Davit Galstyan, welcomed Harutyunyan’s resignation on Thursday, telling News.am that a change was needed to remove ‘obligations’ to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

‘I was among those who proposed that he resign’, Galstyan said, adding that Pashinyan’s ‘conspiratorial plan will not be implemented’ in Nagorno-Karabakh.

When he was elected, Harutyunyan was seen as being close to the Armenian PM, though their relationship later soured.

Both the opposition and government in Nagorno-Karabakh have grown increasingly critical of the Armenian Government since the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, particularly their decision to recognising the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. 

The changes in political leadership come as the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh continues to deteriorate, due to the blockade by Azerbaijan of the Lachin corridor, the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. 

Shortages of food, medicine, and other essential goods continue to be reported. The region has also been deprived of gas and electricity supplies from Armenia, as the cables and pipelines, which pass through Azerbaijan-controlled territories, have been damaged.

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

Read in Azerbaijani on Mikroskop Media.
Read in Georgian on On.ge.
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