A member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) was declared the winner of a weekend local election in a big village just outside Yerevan which was held three months after the killing of its mayor affiliated with a major opposition party.
According to preliminary official election results, the HHK’s Artur Muradian won in Proshian village with 47 percent of the vote, compared with over 43 percent garnered by Vova Sahakian, his main opponent affiliated with the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Sahakian refused to concede defeat, alleging serious fraud.
Sahakian was backed in the tense mayoral race by relatives and supporters of Hrach Muradian, Proshian’s last mayor gunned down on April 2 in still unclear circumstances. Muradian was also a member of Dashnaktsutyun.
Nevertheless, Dashnaktsutyun declined to officially endorse Sahakian’s candidacy on the grounds that it does not want to add to lingering tensions in the village. Accordingly, leaders of the opposition were on Monday careful not to evaluate the conduct of the closely watched election. One of them, Aghvan Vartanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the party leadership needs to consult with local Dashnaktsutyun activists before deciding whether to recognize the official vote results.
Sahakian, meanwhile, rejected those results as fraudulent, accusing the ruling party of handing out voter bribes and using its administrative resources. He said the authorities strived to ensure their ally’s victory “at any cost.”
Ashot Mikaelian, the official winner’s campaign manager, denied any fraud or foul play. “People must be gracious in defeat,” he said.
The HHK’s Artur Muradian already challenged but was defeated by the previous Proshian mayor in an election held there last year. Loyalists of the two men reportedly clashed after that vote.
Dashnaktsutyun has implicitly blamed the HHK for the killing, saying that the slain mayor was threatened and bullied by local government loyalists throughout his eight-year rule. The ruling party has denied any responsibility.
Police have so far arrested one person, a 31-year-old Proshian resident, in connection with Hrach Muradian’s murder. The suspect denies killing the mayor.