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Opposition Party Narrowly Defeated In Local Election


Armenia - Voters prepare to cast ballots at a polling station in Hrazdan, 17Apr2016.

Armenia - Voters prepare to cast ballots at a polling station in Hrazdan, 17Apr2016.

The longtime pro-government mayor of Hrazdan narrowly defeated a prominent candidate representing Nikol Pashinian’s opposition Civil Contract party in a local election held in the central Armenian town on Sunday.

According to official election results, the incumbent Mayor Aram Danielian, who is affiliated with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), won another term in office with 52 percent of the vote. His main challenger, Sasun Mikaelian, got 43 percent.

Civil Contract, of which Mikaelian is a senior member, essentially conceded defeat on Monday, while alleging that the election outcome was decided by vote buying and government pressure on local residents. The Danielian campaign denied the vote buying allegations echoed some media outlets.

“As a parliament deputy, I want to apologize to thousands of Hrazdan citizens who had to vote under the influence of money and administrative coercion because of their socioeconomic plight and sense of hopelessness,” Pashinian told reporters. He said his party will not challenge the official results in court because it managed to prevent violations like ballot stuffing or multiple voting.

“We find it very important to bring about political changes but it is clear to us that in a democratic or any other polity it’s impossible to achieve change without the backing of the majority of citizens,” said Pashinian.

“We conclude that over 50 percent of Hrazdan’s voters did not give us such a mandate,” he added. “We will take this into consideration.”

The Hrazdan mayoral race marked the first election contested by Civil Contract since its official establishment in June 2015. The party’s governing board is dominated by young activists who have previously had no partisan affiliations.

By contrast, Pashinian and Mikaelian played a major role in former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s 2007-2008 opposition movement. Both men fell out with Ter-Petrosian and his Armenian National Congress (HAK) in 2012.

Pashinian has repeatedly said that Civil Contract will strive to act like an “institutional opposition” with a nationwide network of chapters and steadfast activists that would make it much harder for the authorities to rig vote results. The party is expected to be one of the main opposition contenders in parliamentary elections due in May 2017.

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