By Astghik Bedevian
A political ally of businessman Gagik Tsarukian has asked an Armenian court to annul the official results of a weekend mayoral election in the southern town of Armavir that was controversially won by a candidate of the governing Republican Party (HHK).
Arayik Aghababian, a regional leader of Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), was narrowly defeated by Armavir’s incumbent Mayor Ruben Khlghatian in a first-ever election face-off between Armenia’s two largest establishment parties.
His defeat came as a serious setback for the BHK and its top leader, who has spent heavily on Aghababian’s election campaign. It could also have implications for the party’s performance in the May 12 parliamentary elections.
Aghababian refused to concede defeat, alleging widespread vote irregularities. However, he failed to lodge any formal complaints to the local election commission and took legal action instead. “I wasn’t sure the commission would meet my demands,” he explained on Friday.
Aghababian refused to detail the alleged irregularities which he claims robbed him of victory in the town 30 kilometers southwest of Yerevan. “We will publicize everything during court hearings,” he told RFE/RL. “I don’t want to reveal secrets to you right now.”
According to the official results, Khlghatian garnered almost 53 percent of the vote, against Aghababian’s 43 percent. The mayor, who is affiliated with the HHK, insists that he won fair and square.
The HHK and the BHK are seen as the top frontrunners in the unfolding Armenian parliamentary race. The latter is looking to capitalize on its wealthy leader’s vast financial resources, while the Republicans, led by Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, are expected to make the most of their control of most local governments. The BHK is increasingly viewed by commentators as the new power base of President Robert Kocharian.