By Karine Kalantarian
The 27-year-old son of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian became on Monday the youngest head of a local government in Armenia after being declared the winner of an election in Yerevan’s northern Avan district.
The local election commission said Taron Markarian, who ran unopposed, won a crushing 97 percent of votes. It said only about 42 percent of Avan’s 35,550 eligible voters took part in Sunday’s vote the outcome of which was a forgone conclusion.
It was called after the unexpected resignation last month of Avan’s incumbent prefect, Hamlet Khachatrian who cited “health problems.”
The younger Markarian was backed by the local branch of his father’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and wealthy government-connected businessmen living in the largely working-class area. His potential challengers pulled out of the race without any public explanation.
Still, Avan’s newly repaired roads suggested that he did something to try to win over the local people. Armenia’s electoral code explicitly forbids candidates from providing any material compensation or services to voters.
Many Avan residents admitted that all they know about their new prefect is that he is the prime minister’s son. “Let’s see what good things he can do apart from paving the streets,” said one man.
“Things should be fine. He is young,” said another.
Others complained about the lack of choice on the ballot papers. “There was only one candidate. Is that an election?” said one voter.
The Armenian premier has insisted that he did not prod his son to contest the election. He has also said that he believes Taron Markarian will make a good prefect.
Elections in the majority of other local government bodies across Armenia, mostly controlled by the HHK, are scheduled for October.
(RFE/RL photo: Taron Markarian pictured in his campaign booklet.)