By Anna Saghabalian
The first-ever indirect elections of Yerevan’s mayor, controversially delayed by the central government, are unlikely to be held before the end of next year, the chairman of Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) indicated on Monday.
Unlike all other local communities, Yerevan has no municipal assembly and is governed by an official appointed by the president of the republic. Its one million or so residents have only been able to elect the chief executives of the city’s ten administrative districts along with their “councils of elders.”
Under one of the amendments to Armenia’s constitution enacted in November 2005, future Yerevan mayors will be chosen by a municipal council elected by universal suffrage. The elected mayors will have the authority to appoint all district chiefs.
The Armenian government was expected to push through parliament early this year a bill stemming from the constitutional reform and necessary for the conduct of the municipal vote. However, the law was only last month debated and adopted by the National Assembly in the first reading. Its final passage may still take months.
Opposition leaders claim that the authorities are deliberately and illegally delaying the law’s entry into force for fear of holding a municipal election and running the risk of losing control of the capital where the Armenian opposition has traditionally done well. The authorities deny any political motives behind the delay.
Garegin Azarian, the CEC chairman close to governing circles, spoke of late 2009 as the most likely date of the municipal polls. Still, he cautioned that his forecast is “only a presumption.”
In a further indication that the polls are not on the horizon, the authorities and the CEC in particular have pressed ahead with the conduct of local elections in the Yerevan districts whose elected administrations are to be abolished. Four of those communities elected their mayors and councils in May and the six others will do so next month.
Armenia’s main opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian boycotted the May elections, denouncing them as “unconstitutional.” Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) is therefore unlikely to contest the September local polls in the capital.
So far it has only endorsed an opposition candidate in the September 7 election of the mayor of Yerevan’s Arabkir district. The candidate, Zoya Tadevosian, represents the Zharangutyun party of Raffi Hovannisian allied to the HAK.