Istanbul Governor’s Office cancels elections for Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey
The Istanbul Governor’s Office has canceled elections for the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey on the grounds that the necessary conditions for the electoral process have not been met.
The Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey had been planning to carry out patriarchal elections to replace Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan, who fell ill and could no longer perform his duties in 2008.
The Patriarchate sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, in which they expressed their wish to hold an election for a new patriarch.
However, the Istanbul Governor’s Office on Feb. 5 rejected the Patriarchate’s demands, saying that Mutafyan is alive and the necessary conditions in the election process had not been met, which meant keeping Mutafyan in the position.
The letter from the Istanbul Governor’s Office reportedly used the word “so-called” in relation to Karakin Bekçiyan, who was unanimously elected as the “değabah” (caretaker patriarch) last year.
The move has drawn a fierce reaction from the Turkish Armenian community. The Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos said the letter was “historic” in terms of charting the relationship between the Armenian community and the state in an editorial published on Feb. 8.
“The AK Parti [Justice and Development] government has openly intervened in the traditions of the church and told them they cannot elect their own patriarch,” the article said.
The article also regarded the use of “so-called” with regard to Bekçiyan as “a sign of disrespect” to the community.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin met the representatives of the Turkish-Armenian community on Feb. 8 to evaluate the situation, Agos reported. Soylu said he would discuss the community’s concerns with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan withdrew from his position in 2008 due to a deteriorating health condition, diagnosed as frontotemporal dementia (FTD). His seat remained vacant for two years until Aram Ateşyan was appointed as acting Patriarch in 2010.
However, the Turkish Armenians have demanded an election, expressing their unease that patriarchal elections were not held at that time. In the end, the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey announced the vacancy, which initiated the election process.