President Serzh Sarkisian will have decisive word in the upcoming election of Yerevan’s new mayor by the municipal council, a leading member of his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Monday.
The position became vacant last week after its previous holder, Gagik Beglarian, stepped down in a scandal sparked by his reported beating of an official from the presidential protocol unit. The incident resulted from a dispute over seating at the December 3 concert in Yerevan by Spanish tenor Placido Domingo.
Once a key Sarkisian ally, Beglarian was elected mayor after leading the HHK to a controversial victory in the May 2009 municipal elections. Under Armenian law, his successor is to be chosen by Yerevan’s Council of Elders in which the ruling party has a solid majority. The remaining council seats are controlled by the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the HHK’s junior partner in the country’s governing coalition.
The council decided on Monday to schedule the election for Friday. The BHK made clear that it will nominate no mayoral candidates. “In our view, that is their position and the mayor must be from the Republican Party,” the BHK’s top municipal councilor, Gurgen Gasparian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
HHK representatives, meanwhile, said the presidential party has yet to decide who will the Armenian capital’s next mayor. Its deputy chairman, Razmik Zohrabian, told RFE/RL that the HHK’s Executive Body headed by Sarkisian will meet and make a decision by Friday.
“Who doesn’t know that the president of the republic should have a decisive say?” said Zohrabian. “Naturally, his opinion will be of utmost importance.”
Armenian media reports have referred to Deputy Mayor Taron Markarian and the chief executive of the national gas distribution company, Karen Karapetian, as the main candidates for the job. Markarian, 32, is the son of the late Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. He is currently serving as the city’s acting mayor.
Asked about Markarian’s possible election, Zohrabian said, “Everything is possible, but there is no decision yet.”