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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Armenia's Premier Dead

YEREVAN, Armenia -- Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan died of a heart attack at home Sunday, depriving the country of a senior unifying figure ahead of parliamentary elections.

Margaryan, 55, served as prime minister for nearly seven years and sought to reduce tensions between the government and the opposition, which accuses President Robert Kocharyan of attempting to rig elections.

Major decisions in Armenia are made by the president, who called an emergency meeting with ministers in Yerevan.

Armenia will hold parliamentary elections in May 12.

Margaryan, a dissident when Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, was arrested in 1974 for his political beliefs and sentenced to two years in prison.

He came to power in 2000 after Kocharyan sacked Aram Sargsyan, the brother of Vazgen Sargsyan, a prime minister slain in the parliament by gunmen on Oct. 27, 1999.

It was unclear who would replace Margaryan, who was also chairman one of Armenia's leading parties, the Republican Party.

"I doubt there will be a strong figure appointed," political analyst Alexander Iskandaryan said. "There will be a transition figure until the parliamentary elections, when it will become clear."

Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarksyan, another leader from the Republican Party, canceled an official visit to China after Margaryan's death.

Some analysts said Sarksyan could be a candidate to replace Margaryan.

Armenia relies heavily on financial and moral support from a huge diaspora in Russia, Western Europe and the United States.