A businessman tipped to become the next mayor of Gyumri on Tuesday flatly denied reports that he will join the ruling Republican Party (HHK) after the local election that will be held in Armenia’s second city next month.
Samvel Balasanian insisted that he has no plans to quit the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a former member of the governing coalition that nominated him as a candidate in the September 9 election.
The nomination was announced late last month shortly after Balasanian privately met with President Serzh Sarkisian. The HHK, of which Sarkisian is the chairman, went on to officially endorse the BHK candidate and turn its back on Gyumri’s longtime Republican mayor, Vartan Ghukasian. The latter announced last week that he will not seek reelection.
The HHK endorsement fuelled talk of a secret deal between the two former coalition partners that have had an uneasy relationship over the past year. Armenian media reports have also claimed that Balasanian, who owns one of Armenia’s three main beer companies based in Gyumri, has pledged allegiance to the president and will defect to the HHK after the election.
“Such gossips are devoid of logic,” Balasanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Why would I do that? … Do not forget that I’m a deputy chairman of the Prosperous Armenia Party,” he said.
The former deputy parliament speaker welcomed the ruling party’s decision to support his candidacy, saying that it reflects a “political culture being formed in Armenia for the first time ever” and will strengthen his hand in the mayoral race.
Balasanian is challenged in the race by a candidate of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation and three other, nominally independent contenders. He is widely regarded as the election favorite.