By Hovannes Shoghikian
A brother of Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian swept to a predictable victory in a weekend election in Yerevan’s western Ajapnyak district that has long been considered his de facto fiefdom.
According to preliminary results of the election released on Monday, Ruben Hovsepian won 76 percent of the vote. His main challenger, Gagik Sargsian of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), came in a distant second with 13 percent, followed by a third candidate who got 10 percent, official figures showed.
Only 25 percent of Ajapnyak’s 73,000 or so eligible voters cast their ballots, underscoring a widespread sense that the outcome of the vote was always a forgone conclusion. Incidentally, all three candidates are affiliated with Aghvan Hovsepian’s supposedly apolitical Nig-Aparan organization that unites prominent natives of a region in central Armenia.
Sargsian was quick to concede defeat. “It can be said that the elections took place without violations,” he told RFE/RL. “There were a couple of minor violations that did not affect the election results.”
The Dashnaktsutyun activist said at the same time that Sunday’s vote was not fair, alleging that local voters were bullied and bused to polling station in droves by Hovsepian’s loyalists. He said he stood no chance of countering his rival’s “huge administrative leverage.”
The chairman of the district election commission, Samvel Yeranian, said he has received no written protests from election officials or candidate proxies as of Monday afternoon. He said no violence or other serious incidents were reported on voting day.
Ajapnyak has long been the scene of a bitter rivalry between two local clans that flared up into violence during elections held there in the past. Artsrun Khachatrian, Ajapnyak’s previous mayor representing Hovsepian’s faction, has ruled the district for the past six years and was preparing for another showdown with Arman Sahakian, a young leader of the rival clan linked with the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Sahakian was effectively forced to pull out of the race after the HHK’s governing board refused to back his candidacy in August at the apparent behest of Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. The unexpected move fueled speculation about a deal cut by Sarkisian and Hovsepian. The incumbent Ajapnyak mayor decided not to seek reelection and to cede the post to the influential prosecutor’s brother shortly afterwards.
The election outcome will solidify Ajapnyak’s status as a key stronghold of Aghvan Hovsepian. The latter reportedly controls several lucrative businesses in the area and is thought to have far-reaching political ambitions. His Nig-Aparan group is the driving force behind a recently formed political party which intends to make a strong showing in next year’s parliamentary elections. Leaders of the party, called Association for Armenia, have not ruled out the possibility of forming an electoral alliance with the HHK.
(Photolur photo: Ruben Hovsepian.)