Yerevan Mayor Karen Karapetian on Thursday pointedly declined to deny mounting rumors that he will step down less than one year after taking over the municipal administration.
Some Armenian newspapers reported that Karapetian tendered his resignation on Tuesday but that President Serzh Sarkisian told him to announce it several days after the end of an ongoing visit to the Armenian capital by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe.
Delanoe arrived in Armenia to attend a conference of fellow mayors from countries affiliated with the International Organization of the Francophonie. Karapetian presided over the conference that finished its work on Wednesday.
Karapetian’s spokeswoman, Shushan Sardarian, refused to refute or confirm the impending resignation when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). The press office of the Yerevan municipality also declined to comment.
Karapetian’s Facebook page was flooded on Thursday with questions and appeals from scores of supporters concerned about the reports. The mayor did not reply to any of them.
Newspapers and pundits suggested several theories behind his alleged decision to quit. According to one of them, the presidential administration lost patience with Karapetian because of his unpopular policies and, in particular, a ban on street trade and the closure of hundreds of kiosks in Yerevan.
Those policies have sparked angry street protests by traders deprived of their source of income.
Another theory holds that Sarkisian regards the mayor as a potential backer of his predecessor Robert Kocharian who is allegedly plotting a return to power. Karapetian became chief executive of Armenia’s ARG national gas distribution company during Kocharian’s rule and held that position until last year.
There is also speculation that Karapetian has simply been offered a lucrative job in Moscow by Gazprom or another Russian energy conglomerate. Gazprom holds a controlling stake in ARG.
Karapetian was elected mayor by Yerevan’s municipal assembly, controlled by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), in December 2010 following the scandalous resignation of his predecessor Gagik Beglarian. The latter was forced to quit after reportedly assaulting an official from the presidential staff.
Incidentally, Beglarian attended the most recent meetings of the HHK’s Executive Body headed by Sarkisian. HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov insisted that this must not be construed as a sign that Beglarian may be reinstalled as mayor soon.