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Armenian lawmakers elect former minister as new president

Vahagn Khachatrian appears in parliament in Yerevan, Armenia, on March 2, 2022.

Armenia's Industry Minister Vahagn Khachaturyan has been elected as the country's new president after his predecessor’s surprise resignation in January.

Seventy-one members of the ruling Civil Contract Party of Armenia’s parliament approved Khachaturyan's bid for a seven-year term on Thursday.

“Our region must become a platform for cooperation,” Khachaturyan, 62, told lawmakers ahead of the vote, stressing that “we must forge friendly relations with neighbors, live in peace and develop our country within the framework of this logic.”

Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and its loss of war to its neighbor played a leading role in the former president’s resignation.

Khachaturyan’s predecessor, Armen Sarkisian, stepped down on January 23, citing insufficient constitutional authorization.

In a statement published on his official website in January, Sarkissian said he believed the constitution did not give him the “necessary tools to influence the important processes of foreign and domestic policy in difficult times for the people and the country,” without directly referring to any particular events.

An economist by training, Khachaturyan served as the mayor of Armenia's capital Yerevan between 1996 and 1998 before being appointed as the minister of high-technology industry by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan last year.

Armenia seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991 but remains dependent on Russia for aid and investment. Its economy has struggled since the Soviet collapse, counting on money sent home by Armenians abroad.

Many Armenians accuse the government of corruption and mishandling an economy that has struggled to overcome the legacy of central planning.

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