By Ruzanna Stepanian
Residents of Yerevan will go to the polls on May 31 to elect a municipal assembly that will choose the city’s new mayor and oversee the work of the municipal administration.
The Armenian capital has until now been governed by officials 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, Yerevan mayors will now be chosen by a municipal council elected by universal suffrage. The Armenian parliament recently adopted a law regulating the conduct of the election under the system of proportional representation. The election date was set shortly afterwards.
The four parties represented in Armenia’s governing coalition look set to contest the vote on their own. “From the political standpoint, I think that if you have a strong team you should go it alone,” Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), told RFE/RL on Monday.
Sahakian said the HHK feels strong enough to win the majority of seats in the municipal council and install a Republican mayor. He said the ruling party is likely to nominate the incumbent Mayor Yervand Zakharian or the head of the city’s central administrative district, Gagik Beglarian, for the post. “Of course, other people are also being considered, but we are leaning towards these two persons,” added Sahakian.
Ruben Markarian, a senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), one of the HHK’s junior coalition, said the nationalist party is also unlikely to form electoral alliances. Dashnaktsutyun has yet to pick its mayoral candidate, he said.
Another governing party, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), has also not made such a decision yet. “If we reach no agreement [with other coalition parties,] we will have our own candidate,” BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian told journalists earlier this month.
On the opposition side, only the Zharangutyun party of Raffi Hovannisian has confirmed its participation in the May 31 vote so far. “We will participate in the elections unless something extraordinary happens,” said Armen Martirosian, the nominal leader of the party’s parliament faction.
Martirosian told RFE/RL that Zharangutyun would like to join forces with other opposition groups, notably the Armenian National Congress (HAK) of Levon Ter-Petrosian. “I think the opposition should act in a united front,” he said, adding that negotiations with the HAK will start shortly.
The HAK itself has yet to decide whether to contest the municipal election. Arman Musinian, a spokesman for the alliance, said the decision will be made early next month.
(Photolur photo: The Yerevan municipality building.)