By Tigran Avetisian
The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party on Friday condemned President Serzh Sarkisian’s decision to appoint a prominent loyalist as Yerevan mayor, saying that it bodes ill for the freedom and fairness of the upcoming municipal elections.
Gagik Beglarian became mayor earlier this week just days after being chosen by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) to top the list of its candidates in the May 31 elections of a new municipal assembly. The assembly will in turn elect a new mayor by a majority of votes. Beglarian’s appointment is widely regarded as an effort to boost the HHK’s chance of gaining such majority.
“With Gagik Beglarian’s appointment they want to maximize their administrative capabilities and control over all officials during the elections,” said Anahit Bakhshian, Zharangutyun’s nominal chairwoman. “This is leverage for falsifying, influencing or ‘correcting’ course of the elections.”
Zharangutyun’s assessment is certain to be endorsed by the other major opposition force, the Armenian National Congress (HAK). A spokesman for the HHK insisted on Thursday that the ruling party will not use its extensive government levers to win the elections.
The proper conduct of the polls is one of the demands contained in a written statement issued by Zharangutyun on Friday. The only opposition party represented in parliament also demanded that the Armenian authorities release all “political prisoners” and take more effective measures against the global economic crisis.