By Hovannes Shoghikian
The governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Thursday it expects to win the upcoming municipal elections in Yerevan and install one of its senior members as the city’s first elected mayor in over a decade.
Under a recently passed law, the new mayor of Yerevan will be chosen by a municipal council to be elected by universal suffrage on May 31.
“We have very serious ambitions and almost nobody doubts that Gagik Beglarian will be elected Yerevan mayor,” Eduard Sharmazanov, an HHK spokesman, told RFE/RL, referring to the man who has until now run the city’s central administrative district.
President Serzh Sarkisian, the HHK’s top leader, on Wednesday appointed Beglarian to serve as Yerevan mayor at least until the municipal polls. The move is widely seen as an attempt to boost the HHK’s electoral chances.
For the Armenian opposition, it was also a clear sign that the ruling party intends to heavily rely on its extensive “administrative resources” to win the majority of municipal assembly seats. “In all elections, the authorities used state resources to organize their pre-election campaigns,” said Vahagn Khachatrian, a former Yerevan mayor affiliated with the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). “Now they will allow Gagik Beglarian to use the municipality’s resources for his election campaign.”
Sharmazanov denied this. “The Republican Party has always stood for conducting election campaigns only within the framework of Armenian legislation,” he claimed. “I am convinced that the HHK campaign for the upcoming elections will be in line with law and we will not mix the functions of mayor with the campaign.”