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Opposition Parties Deny Defections


Armenia - Opposition leader Edmon Marukian (L) argues with government loyalists during the election of Vanadzor's mayor, 10Oct2016.

Armenia - Opposition leader Edmon Marukian (L) argues with government loyalists during the election of Vanadzor's mayor, 10Oct2016.

Two major political parties that are officially in opposition to President Serzh Sarkisian insisted on Thursday that they did not help a pro-government figure become the mayor of Armenia’s third largest city of Vanadzor.

The Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Armenian Revival parties pledged to back the mayoral candidate of another opposition party, Bright Armenia, before the newly elected city council installed the mayor by 19 votes to 14 on Monday.

The three parties won a total of 18 seats in the 33-seat council in the October 2 municipal election, meaning that four of their members voted for the ruling Republican Party’s pick of Vanadzor mayor, Mamikon Aslanian. Since Aslanian was elected in secret ballot it is still not clear who those councilors are.

Some Armenian commentators and media outlets have speculated that the secret defectors were from the BHK and/or Armenian Revival. Both parties have been part of Sarkisian’s governing coalitions in the past.

Vahe Enfiajian, a senior BHK member, insisted that all three Vanadzor council members affiliated with his party voted for Bright Armenia’s Krist Marukian. “As regards the councilors representing the BHK, my conscience is clear,” he said. “I have an internal conviction that it wasn’t them [who switched sides.]”

“We have managed to prove that,” Enfiajian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He said the three councilors marked the ballots in a special way that was agreed with the BHK leadership in Yerevan beforehand.

Hovannes Markarian, an Armenian Revival leader, likewise ruled out the possibility of any of the five councilors affiliated with his party breaking ranks. “Everything will become clear soon,” Markarian said. “Whoever did that, it was treason.”

Bright Armenia, which holds ten council seats, said earlier this week that the three parties have decided to boycott sessions of the Vanadzor legislature in a bid to identify the defectors. The recently formed party argued that the council would not make a quorum in the absence of its 18 opposition members. It said the four councilors who prevented the opposition victory in Vanadzor might be forced to attend council sessions and thus expose themselves.

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