By Hovannes Shoghikian
The elected heads of several administrative districts of Yerevan voiced on Thursday objections to a government bill that would transfer the authority to appoint them from local residents to the city mayor.
The draft law, the main points of which were made public by the government last week, stems from one of the 2005 constitutional amendments that gives the Armenian capital the status of a local community governed by elected officials.
The Yerevan mayors have until now been appointed by the president of the republic. Under the government bill, they shall be chosen by a city council to be elected by universal suffrage.
The bill also envisages the dissolution of the elected administrations of the city’s ten administrative districts currently run by elected mayors and “councils of elders.” The district chiefs would now be appointed by the Yerevan mayor.
“A district head appointed by the Yerevan mayor will be accountable only to the mayor, whereas an elected district mayor is accountable to his voters,” said Surik Ghukasian, mayor of the western Davitashen district.
Hovannes Shahinian, mayor of the bigger Arabkir district, agreed, saying that elected prefects should do a better job of running their communities. Shahinian, who is a member of the governing Republican Party, predicted that the central government will eventually realize its mistake and revert to the existing system of community governance.
“I think that we would eventually return to the system existing today,” he told a news conference.
“It is desirable to have elected district prefects,” said Ruben Hovsepian, who runs the Ajapnyak district.
All three community prefects made it clear that they will not challenge the government or lobby it to make corresponding changes in the bill.
At least one of their colleagues, Aghvan Grigorian of the Malatia-Sebastia district, hailed the planned abolition of district elections. “The good thing about the bill is that it will make the city a single unit and make it more manageable,” argued Grigorian.
(Photolur photo: Hovannes Shahinian.)