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Galstanyan suspends priesthood to run for prime minister in Armenia

27 May 2024
Archpriest Bagrat Galstanyan. Image via Hetq.

Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, the head of the anti-government Tavush for the Motherland movement, has announced that he plans to run for prime minister.

Galstanyan’s announcement came on Sunday, as his movement organised a mass rally in Yerevan’s Republic Square attended by more than 23,000 people.

The Tavush for the Motherland movement was founded in protest against the border delimitation with Azerbaijan, which began in Tavush on 20 April.

In a speech on Sunday, Galstanyan said that he had asked the Armenian Church to ‘freeze my spiritual service of thirty years’. He added that he suspended his priesthood after talks with Patriarch Karekin II and other members of the clergy, who  agreed that he could not run for the position of prime minister as a priest.

On Monday, the Armenian Church announced that Galstanyan’s ‘episcopal order is preserved, [but] his ecclesiastical and administrative service has been suspended’.

However, as a dual Armenian–Canadian citizen, Galstanyan is constitutionally ineligible to run for office.

In his speech, addressing the question on how he intended to run for prime minister in light of the constitutional hurdle, Galstanyan said that he would ‘act according to the requirements of the law and by all possible legal means’.


Protest in Yerevan, floods in the north

During the protest, Galstanyan announced that the protesters were going to march to Pashinyan’s residence in Yerevan to meet with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

At the residence, the leaders of the Tavush for the Motherland movement made speeches before leaving and returning to Republic Square.

During Sunday’s protest, Galstanyan called for acts of civil disobedience to begin from Monday morning, but called on his supporters to leave roads leading to Lori and Tavush, two provinces hit hard by heavy flooding, open.

Heavy rainfall over the weekend resulted in severe flooding in the two northern provinces, leading to the death of four people and causing infrastructural damage.

As of Monday afternoon, a total of 284 protesters had been detained for holding acts of disobedience that day, with 278 released later that day. 

A group of riot police were also seen physically assaulting Armenia Alliance MP Ashot Simonyan on Monday. Footage of the incident shows riot police officers surrounding Simonyan, cursing at him, throwing him to the ground, and beating him.

The Tavush for the Motherland movement stated that one rallygoer was hospitalised after being beaten by the police.

Armenia’s Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into the incident.

Police also used tear gas to disperse protesters in Yerevan and Sisian. Armenia’s Investigative Committee said that they had received reports from the police claiming that a protester had used tear gas against the police. The protester was later detained.

Former Nagorno-Karabakh officials ‘encouraging people to attend protests’

On Friday, audio recordings purported to be of former Nagorno-Karabakh officials surfaced, in which they can be heard discussing the organisation of Sunday’s rally, and arranging for people to join it.

On the same day, Armenia’s Investigative Committee arrested an unidentified man for bribing people to join the protests. Media later reported that the man was Hayk Shamiryan, the former mayor of Askeran (Asgeran) in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Shamiryan was put under house arrest and additionally charged with fraud and forging illegal documents. Several other former Nagorno-Karabakh local community officials were also reportedly arrested on the same charges.

The Investigative Committee stated that those arrested had bribed around 20 people from Gegharkunik with ֏6,000–֏8,000  ($16–$21) to join the rally, in addition to offering to pay for their petrol, food, and drinks.

Following the arrests, Galstanyan claimed that he had suspected that there was a bug in his hotel room in Yerevan.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
Read in Russian on Jnews and SOVA.News.
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