The new mayor of a town in northern Armenia has accused his predecessor affiliated with the ruling Republican Party (HHK) of sabotaging the work of the municipal administration through his loyalists sitting on the local council.
Six members of the Council of Elders of Ijevan, capital of Tavush province, have effectively paralyzed the legislative body by boycotting virtually all of its sessions planned for this year. All of them are supporters of Ijevan’s former longtime Mayor Varuzhan Nersisian who was unseated by Vartan Ghalumian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the HHK’s junior partner in the governing coalition, in an election held last November.
The boycotting council members, among them Nersisian’s brother Hrachya, attribute the move to a municipal budget for this year drafted by Nersisian. They claim that the new mayor and other councilors supporting him refuse to seriously consider changes in the bill proposed by them.
Ghalumian dismissed these claims in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday. “They have made no budgetary proposals whatsoever,” he said. He accused Nersisian’s loyalists of trying to disrupt his work at the behest of the ex-mayor.
Hrachya Nersisian insisted, however, that his brother is not behind the boycott. He said the dissenters are simply protesting against what they see as a low local revenue target set by the mayor’s 2012 budget proposal.
Neither side has linked the dispute with uneasy relations between the HHK and the BHK which are having far-reaching implications for Armenian politics.
Tavush’s HHK-affiliated governor, Armen Ghularian, has pointedly declined to intervene in the row. Ghalumian said he appealed to the governor earlier this year and was only told to be guided by Armenia’s law on local government.
Under that law, members of local councils must be terminated if they fail to attend most council sessions held within a year. The Ijevan council was elected in May last year, meaning that the protesting councilors will risk losing their mandates if they continue the boycott in the coming months.
Nersisian’s defeat by Ghalumian was a rare election setback for the HHK which controls most local government bodies across Armenia. The leadership of the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian discussed the Ijevan election result at a meeting later in November.