By Artem Chernamorian in Gyumri
With less than ten days remaining before nationwide local elections, a candidate of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has unexpectedly withdrawn from the mayoral race in Armenia's second largest city, Gyumri, citing a lack of popularity.
Hovsep Simonian said the local branch of the influential party represented in the Armenian government has made the decision after concluding that its chances of success are negligible.
"We hoped to create a situation that would allow our citizens to make a choice between two individuals," he told RFE/RL. "But the real situation on the ground made it imperative for us to quit the election."
Simonian, who holds a senior post in the administration of the Shirak province, stopped short of endorsing Vartan Ghukasian, the current mayor of the provincial capital who is seeking a second three-year term in office. Both Dashnaktsutyun and Ghukasian share strong support for President Robert Kocharian's victory in the February presidential election.
Another major challenger, Marzpetuni Markarian of the opposition National Unity party, also withdrew his candidacy last month after being appointed to a senior position in the Shirak government. Markarian had been previously put forward as the joint candidate of virtually all opposition parties active in the area. They have since rallied behind another opposition contender, retired police officer Levon Galstian.
The decision to quit the mayoral race left Dashnaktsutyun vying for the control of only two municipal communities: the remote towns of Bert and Kapan. It reflects a broader phenomenon of Armenian political parties showing little interest in the October 20 local elections.
Only one of them, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party (HHK), is preparing for the polls in earnest. The Republicans already control many local governments in various parts of the country. This fact renders their support for Kocharian's reelection bid particularly important.