Most voters in Gyumri have rejected President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional amendments despite his last-minute promise to provide large-scale economic assistance to Armenia’s second largest city plagued by poverty and unemployment.
Gyumri was one of the few urban communities where the Central Election Commission (CEC) registered a “No” vote in Sunday’s constitutional referendum. The CEC put voter turnout there at below 35 percent and said only about 40 percent of Gyumri residents who went to the polls voted for the amendments.
The figures were in tune with Sarkisian’s defeat in Gyumri during the February 2013 presidential election in which he controversially won a second term in office. The Armenian government has since allocated little funding for the city’s battered infrastructure, fueling allegations of retribution against the local population. Officials in Yerevan have denied those allegations.
Just two days before the referendum, Sarkisian announced that the government will spend $25 million on capital repairs of Gyumri streets and lighting network. In televised remarks, he also promised free housing to hundreds of local families who lost their homes in the 1988 earthquake.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian commented on the referendum results in Gyumri on Monday when he visited the city on the 27th anniversary of the earthquake that killed some 25,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of others homeless. When asked by journalists whether the outcome of the vote will influence government assistance to Gyumri, Abrahamian said: “Every citizen is free to decide whether to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ They have said ‘No’ and we respect their view. I have nothing else to say.”