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By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Hovannes Shoghikian
A senior member of the influential Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has been denied support in his bid to be elected prefect in a Yerevan district.

The party’s Board chaired by powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian late on Thursday voted overwhelmingly not to throw its weight behind their fellow HHK Board member Arman Sahakian, who recently resigned as Yerevan’s vice-mayor to contest elections in the capital’s northwestern district of Ajapnyak.

Only three votes against 61 were in favor of Sahakian. And those were the vote of himself as a Board member, of his father Galust Sahakian and close relative Ashot Aghababian.

The HHK will subject its members who will support Sahakian’s election bid to disciplinary action, the party’s public relations service announced in a statement.

In a RFE/RL interview Arman Sahakian’s father, leader of the HHK parliamentary faction Galust Sahakian described this approach as acceptable and agreed that elections in Ajapnyak, a district known for its troubled electoral history, is not a party issue.

Meanwhile, Arman Sahakian said he had taken the party’s decision in its stride and was not thinking of quitting the HHK. He confirmed to RFE/RL that he will not give up his intention to seek an election as Ajapnyak’s prefect in the polls scheduled for October 29.

However, Sahakian would not be drawn on Serzh Sarkisian’s remarks that “the party does not necessarily have to support all its members in any issue.”

“I do have my place in the party and I’ve had long services to it,” Sahakian said. “I respect the opinions of the party leader and its board chairman, but the situation today is such that I cannot withdraw my participation from the election race. I am sure people will be on my side.”

Sarkisian, who announced his HHK affiliation in July, did not rule out that the party could support another candidate in the Ajapnyak polls. “There is still a long time to go to the elections. If the HHK Board decides to support a candidate in these elections, then it will make an appropriate decision and the media will be informed about that,” Sarkisian said.

Ajapnyak has 120,000 residents, 72,000 of whom are eligible to vote. The previous elections show that tense struggle usually takes place in this Yerevan district where about half of the eligible voters go to the polls.

Three years ago Sahakian already tried to unseat the district’s current prefect Artsrun Khachatrian. He lost then to the incumbent enjoying the support of the country’s most powerful law-enforcement officials in a close contest.

Khachatrian, seeking reelection for the third consecutive time, twice defeated candidates fielded by the HHK in the past.

“I have many friends in the Republican Party, even in its board, and they will help me. So it is yet early to speak about who will support who,” Khachatrian told RFE/RL last week, questioning Sahakian’s chances to get the support of his fellow partisans.
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