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Gyumri Mayor Reelected Amid Opposition Protests


Armenia - Gyumri Mayor Samvel Balasanian is sworn in for a second term in office, 10Oct2016.

Armenia - Gyumri Mayor Samvel Balasanian is sworn in for a second term in office, 10Oct2016.

Samvel Balasanian, the incumbent of Gyumri, controversially secured a second term in office on Monday amid an opposition boycott of the newly elected municipal council that approved his candidacy.

The opposition Prosperous Armenia (BHK), Armenian Revival and GALA parties refused to recognize his reelection, saying it was the result of an unlawful distribution of council seats.

A pro-government bloc led by Balasanian garnered about 35 percent of the vote in the municipal election held on October 2 under the system of proportional representation. The BHK finished second with 21.6 percent of the vote, while Armenian Revival and GALA got over 10 percent each.

Several other opposition parties failed to pass the 6 percent vote threshold for being represented in the Gyumri legislature.

The local election commission ruled on Sunday that the ballots cast for Balasanian’s bloc translate into 17 seats in the 33-member council, just enough for it to reelect the incumbent. The commission assigned the remaining 16 seats to the BHK, Armenian Revival and GALA.

The three groups rejected that calculation as fraudulent, saying that in fact Balasanian and his allies won only 15 seats. Dozens of their angry supporters protested outside the commission building after the announcement of the controversial decision.

The opposition parties said they will challenge that decision in court. Councilors representing them boycotted Monday’s inaugural session of the Gyumri council which formalized Balasanian’s reelection.

A businessman who owns one of Armenia’s largest breweries located in Gyumri, Balasanian has run Gyumri for the past four years. The 62-year-old was a member of the Armenian parliament from 1999-2012.

Incidentally, Balasanian has been affiliated with both Armenian Revival (formerly called Orinats Yerkir) and the BHK in the past.

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