Three Armenian political parties that are officially in opposition to the government gave no indication on Tuesday that they will a strike a post-election deal that would end the ruling Republican Party’s control of the country’s third largest city.
The Republican Party (HHK) won most votes in a local election held in Vanadzor on Sunday. But it fell short of an outright majority in the municipal council that will elect the city’s new mayor.
The HHK gained only 13 council seats, compared with a total of 18 seats won by its three main local challengers: the Bright Armenia, Armenian Renaissance and Prosperous Armenia (BHK) parties. They are thus in a position to jointly decide who will govern Vanadzor for the next four years.
Bright Armenia, which finished second in the Vanadzor polls and won 10 council seats, offered on Monday to cut a power-sharing deal with the Armenian Renaissance and BHK.
The Armenian Renaissance, formerly called Orinats Yerkir, said it will enter into such an agreement only if Bright Armenia pledges to support it in next year’s parliamentary elections or lets it pick the Vanadzor mayor.
Edmon Marukian, Bright Armenia’s Vanadzor-based leader, rejected these “preconditions.” “A party with 5 seats cannot tell a party with 10 seats to join it and back its [mayoral] candidate,” Marukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The BHK, for its part, said on Tuesday that it is still considering Marukian’s offer.
The BHK and the Armenian Renaissance were for years part of President Serzh Sarkisian’s governing coalitions. Some commentators question their current opposition credentials, suspecting them of secretly collaborating with the authorities. Both parties have dismissed such claims.
A senior BHK figure, Mikael Melkumian, insisted that his party will not support the HHK in Vanadzor, the administrative center of Armenia’s northern Lori province.
An Armenian Renaissance leader, Heghine Bisharian, also ruled out the possibility of a deal with the ruling party. “We won’t cooperate with them,” she said.
Marukian, who was elected to the Armenian parliament from a Lori constituency in 2012, said he still hopes that the three parties will agree to jointly unseat the HHK in Vanadzor. “It’s obvious that if we don’t unite, the Vanadzor mayor will be from the Republican Party,” he warned.