The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) became on Monday the first opposition party to field a candidate for an upcoming mayoral election in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri.
The candidate, Hovsep Simonian, was presented at a news conference held by Dashnaktsutyun leaders in Gyumri and the surrounding Shirak province. Simonian currently works as deputy head of the department on finance and economy at the provincial administration.
The city’s longtime and controversial mayor, Vartan Ghukasian, was widely expected to seek another term in office in the election slated for September 9. However, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), of which Ghukasian is a member, called his political future into question last week then it pledged support for another candidate representing the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a former member of the country’s governing coalition. Ghukasian has since been tight-lipped about his reelection plans.
Dashnaktsutyun representatives in Gyumri said the decision to nominate Simonian was initiated by the party’s local chapter during a conference. “We will fight till the end,” Simonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Nothing can inhibit or hold us back during this period.”
The Dashnaktsutyun candidate complained about what he called a connection between the Gyumri vote and Armenia’s next presidential election due in February. He said that will make it harder for local voters to “make the right choice.”
Some observers have suggested that by backing a BHK candidate in Gyumri the ruling HHK hopes to mend fences with the BHK and secure its endorsement of President Serzh Sarkisian’s reelection.
It is not yet clear if other major opposition groups will join the Gyumri race with their own candidates.