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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Armenian President Announces Resignation

YEREVAN, Armenia -- Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan resigned Tuesday, saying he could no longer govern his sharply divided country and had decided to quit before he was overthrown.

His resignation followed the mass defections of members of his party in parliament. New presidential elections are expected to be held in 40 days.

Politics in Armenia has been dominated by disputes over the disputed ethnic enclave of Nagorny Karabakh, but Ter-Petrosyan said that was "only a pretest" for political infighting.

The real conflict, he said in a televised resignation speech, was "much deeper and goes to the heart of our constitutional government."

Ter-Petrosyan said there was no single reason for his decision, but then went on to mention his defeats over the Nagorny Karabakh issue.

He said he feared being driven from office, and decided to resign instead.

Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander Arzumanian had resigned Monday, presumably over Nagorny Karabakh, and there had been speculation that Ter-Petrosyan might be next.

A dissident during Soviet times, Ter-Petrosyan was elected president of this former Soviet republic in 1991 in Armenia's first presidential election. He was re-elected by a narrow majority to a second term in September 1996, which sparked opposition demonstrations in the capital, Yerevan.

This fall, the opposition protested Ter-Petrosyan's cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe toward a gradual settlement of the Karabakh problem.

Nagorny Karabakh, a mountainous territory located inside Azerbaijan but populated mostly by Armenians, declared independence in early 1988. After several years of fighting, the Karabakh rebels drove Azeri armed forces out of the enclave and seized a large swath of land in Azerbaijan proper.