Taron Markarian, a 33-year-old son of a former Armenian prime minister, was unanimously elected as Yerevan’s new mayor by the government-controlled municipal assembly on Tuesday.
Markarian’s election became a forgone conclusion after President Serzh Sarkisian nominated him for the vacant post late last month. Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which has a solid majority in the city’s Council of Elders, promptly endorsed the move.
The nomination followed the unexpected resignation of the previous Yerevan mayor, Karen Karapetian. Three other high-ranking Armenian officials, notably parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian, resigned or were sacked shortly after Karapetian’s exit.
Analysts have attributed those changes to Sarkisian’s desire to cement his positions ahead of parliamentary elections due in May. Some of them believe that the president is keen to ward off a potential challenge from his predecessor Robert Kocharian.
A senior member of the HHK, Markarian began his political career in 2005 when he was elected mayor of Yerevan’s northern Avan district at the age of 27. His late father Andranik was Armenia’s prime minister and the HHK leader at the time.
Markarian’s name was high on the list of HHK candidates in the May 2009 municipal elections which the ruling party won by a landslide amid opposition allegations of fraud. He was elected deputy mayor after the vote.
Speaking to journalists after his election, Markarian said he will perform his duties “with great care.” “The system of local government is dear to my heart,” he said.
The new mayor also indicated plans to continue his predecessor’s controversial policy of closing and dismantling kiosks across the Armenian capital. Still, he said he will be seeking a negotiated settlement with the owners of large kiosks remaining in the city center.