By Ruben Meloyan and Hovannes Shoghikian
Pro-government candidates swept weekend local elections in four administrative districts of Yerevan which were partly boycotted by the opposition and marred by a serious brawl.
Official vote results released on Monday gave victory to the incumbent mayors of the northern Kanaker-Zeytun and the southern and Nubarashen districts.
There was only one candidate in Nubarashen and the neighboring Erebuni district, making the outcome of the elections there a forgone conclusions. Their mayors are affiliated with the governing Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Republican (HHK) parties respectively.
The race was far more unpredictable in the other district, Arabkir. Its incumbent Republican mayor, Hovannes Shahinian, was defeated by Albert Yeritsian a local businessman effectively backed by the HHK. A candidate from the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, Zoya Tadevosian, came in third.
Both Shahinian and Tadevosian conceded defeat on Monday, the latter claiming that the election was decided by vote buying. Shahinian said he too will not challenge the vote results but gave a different reason. “For me, at stake on Sunday was not my participation in the elections but the security of the community’s population, and I consider my mission accomplished,” he claimed in a statement.
The statement made no mention of a violent clash on Sunday morning between two groups of men supporting the two main Arabkir candidates. One man, identified as Mher Kerobian, was badly beaten and stabbed in the hip before being rushed to Yerevan’s Erebuni hospital with serious injuries. A hospital official told RFE/RL that Kerobian was hospitalized with a fractured skull and broken ribs.
Lusine, a pro-Shahinian resident of a neighborhood where the fight took place, said the violence broke out after Kerobian and his friends were attacked by a group of other burly men who arrived at the scene in several cars. “Some of these guys had guns and they pistol-whipped our men,” she claimed.
The police said two men turned themselves in on Monday, admitting their participation in the brawl. A senior police official denied rumors that law-enforcement authorities suspect that Yeritsian’s son Robert was also involved.
Yeritsian likewise insisted that his son had no hand in the violence. “This was a provocation,” he told RFE/RL. “People wanted to botch my campaign.” He said he won the ballot fair and square.
The incident occurred despite increased police presence in and outside Arabkir’s polling stations.
The race was even tighter in neighboring Kanaker-Zeytun where the opposition candidate, Manuel Gasparian, was narrowly defeated by the incumbent Republican Mayor Arayik Kotanjian. Gasparian, who represented the Armenian National Congress of Levon Ter-Petrosian, refused to concede defeat, alleging “disgraceful falsifications.”
But Vanush Zeynalian, chairman of the district election commission, denied the allegations. “We have no reports of violations that could affect the election results,” he told RFE/RL.
Zeynalian said the commission nonetheless agreed to recount ballots in some local precincts on Tuesday.
(Photolur photo: Kerobian pictured in the hospital.)