Turkish Authorities Interfering in the Election Process 

ISTANBUL (Agos) — The Clerical Assembly of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul elected Archbishop Karekin Bekchian, Primate of the German Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church as Locum Tenens —a patriarchal alternate today.

The voting is seen as the first step of patriarchal elections.

Thirty members of the Clerical Assembly participated in the elections. Elected by clerics, the Locum Tenens will be responsible for managing the process of electing the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul.

General Vicar of the Patriarch Aram Ateshian, Bishop Sahak Mashalian and Archbishop Karekin Bekchian were initially named as candidates. However, Mashalian, in a statement before the election, declared that would withdraw and supported Bekchian. Aram Ateshian will now step down as General Vicar.

The Clerical Assembly is expected to form a commission comprising clergymen and secular figures to organize the transfer of power from the General Vicar to the Locum Tenens.

The elections of the initiative group will be organized within 10 days after the election of the Locum Tenens. The group will, in turn, organize the elections of the Patriarch of Istanbul within a six-month period.

Turkish Authorities Interfere in the Patriarchal Election
Following the election, a notice was handed out by Archbishop Aram Ateshian to the Clerical Assembly that stated that it was illegal to start the election process, according to Agos. The notice was from the Governor’s office to the press and was signed by Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan.

“Given the reports in the media, it is understood that the procedure of patriarchal election is intended to be started virtually by electing a degabah on March 15.

“Considering the unfavorable developments that took place during the meeting on February 16 at the patriarchate, it is determined that starting the election process is legally impossible given the facts that this process might cause disturbance and divisions in the society, that there is already an incumbent vicar and that your society knows the basic proceedings and practices concerning the patriarchal election.” read the statement.

In a response, Arch. Bekchian stated that a group including Ateshian and Mashalian will go to the Istanbul Governor’s office to explain the situation.

“In this planned meeting, our party will explain the logic of election of the Locum Tenens,” read Bekchian’s statement. “Then an announcement will be made within the next couple of days.” Bekchian added that he will not be attending the meeting.

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