The leadership of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) discussed a rare electoral defeat at the hands of its main partner in the country’s governing coalition during a meeting chaired by President Serzh Sarkisian late on Thursday.
HHK representatives said the outcome of the mayoral election held in the northern town of Ijevan on November 13 was high on the agenda of the party’s Executive Body.
According to official vote results, Ijevan’s incumbent Republican mayor, Varuzhan Nersisian, was defeated by his main challenger Vartan Ghalumian representing the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). The HHK rarely loses such elections not least because of its numerous power levers and vast financial resources.
The vote followed renewed tensions between the two parties stemming from BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian’s apparent reluctance to reaffirm support for Sarkisian’s reelection in 2013.
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the Executive Body “analyzed” the reasons for the election outcome. But he gave no other details.
Artak Zakarian, a senior HHK parliamentarian, was also reticent about the meeting at a news conference held on Friday. “The party’s Executive Body simply told territorial branches to pay attention to this issue in order to avoid a repeat of that in other places or hold a more organized campaign in the future,” he said.
The late-night meeting was also attended by Armen Ghularian, the Republican governor of Tavush province of which Ijevan is the capital. According to Sharmazanov, none of the HHK leaders called for Ghularian’s sacking.
Meanwhile, the BHK, which is represented in the central government by four ministers, remained reluctant to comment on political implications of its victory in Ijevan. Vartan Bostanjian, a BHK parliamentarian, said last week that Tsarukian’s party can beat the HHK in next year’s parliamentary elections if they are free and fair.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK member, declined to comment on whether the Ijevan poll result means that the BHK can win a majority in the Armenian parliament. “The outcome of any election is decided by votes cast by the people,” she said vaguely.
The HHK holds the majority of seats in the current National Assembly and controls most local governments across the country. The presidential party has indicated that intends to win the May 2012 polls by a landslide and at the same time ensure that they are more democratic than past Armenian elections.
Armenia’s leading opposition forces dismiss these pledges, saying that the HHK will be seeking to rig the vote.