By Shakeh Avoyan and Ruzanna Stepanian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian on Wednesday threw his weight behind his 27-year-old son’s political ambitions, saying that there is nothing wrong in his decision to context an upcoming local election in Yerevan.
Taron Markarian is running unopposed in the city’s northern Avan district and therefore looks certain to become its chief executive as a result of the May 22 election. The Armenian authorities are believed to have discouraged other potential pro-establishment contenders from joining the race.
But Andranik Markarian argued that nobody prevented the Armenian opposition from fielding a candidate there. “Why do you think that there has been or there will be a single candidate only in that district?” he told RFE/RL on the sidelines of a conference of Armenia’s Trade and Industrial Chamber. “Whether or not he is the president’s son doesn’t matter at all.”
Markarian was also confident that his son will make a “normal” prefect. “I know that the people [in Avan] won’t be unhappy,” he said.
The premier was visibly irked when asked if parallels can now be drawn between Armenia and other ex-Soviet states like Kyrgyzstan where many members of President Askar Akayev’s family contested a recent parliamentary election. Akayev was forced to resign and flee the country by thousands of opposition demonstrators protesting widespread vote rigging.
“I want you to ask only questions about the Trade Chamber,” Markarian shot back angrily. “I have been to Kyrgyzstan but did not take part in the revolution.”
Markarian and his family live in Avan. His son’s campaign manager told RFE/RL earlier that Taron and his supporters will go so far as to repair all potholed roads in Avan to win the hearts and minds of the local population. But with his election now becoming a mere formality, that will no longer seems necessary.
Also electing the heads of local self-government bodies this month will be residents of three other Yerevan districts. Opposition groups will not contest them either.
“We are not participating in those elections because we have no candidates,” admitted opposition leader Stepan Demirchian. He said his People’s Party of Armenia will concentrate on nationwide local elections slated for October.
But another prominent oppositionist, Aram Sarkisian, said his Hanrapetutyun party finds its participation in the local poll pointless because it believes they can not be democratic as long as President Robert Kocharian is in power.
“My party is trying to ensure that local elections are held under a new government,” Sarkisian told RFE/RL. “Otherwise, we will have what we always had.”