By Shakeh Avoyan
The governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) was narrowly defeated by another pro-establishment party in a local by-election in one of Yerevan’s largest administrative districts on Sunday.
Mkrtich Minasian, the incumbent chief of the northern Nor Nork borough backed by the HHK, lost to David Petrosian of the Orinats Yerkir party by a margin of just over 700 votes or less than 2 percentage points. The two men vied for the same post three years ago and it was Minasian who won at the time.
Election watchers believe that the Orinats Yerkir candidate capitalized on the worsening situation with central heating in Nor Nork caused by a backlog of unpaid utility bills. Petrosian was also emphasizing the fact that he is a local resident unlike his rival who lives in the city’s southern Erebuni district.
Sunday’s voting proceeded without reports of vote irregularities and other incidents. The chairman of the local election commission, Albert Kishoyan, told RFE/RL on Monday that no verbal or written complaints have been lodged by any of the candidates.
The vote result is a setback for the Republicans who scored a landslide victory in last October’s nationwide local elections. Still, HHK members and loyalists continue to run most of the Armenian capital’s 12 districts. The center-right party led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian hopes to use its control of many local governments across Armenia to make a strong showing in parliamentary elections due next May.
Both the HHK and Orinats Yerkir are strong backers of President Robert Kocharian and will be actively campaigning for his victory in the February 19 presidential election.