Armenia’s Administrative Court on Tuesday rejected an opposition appeal against the official outcome of this month’s municipal election in Gyumri that handed the city’s pro-government mayor a second term.
The incumbent Mayor Samvel Balasanian’s bloc garnered about 35 percent of the vote. The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) finished second with 21.6 percent of the vote, followed by two other opposition parties, Armenian Revival and GALA, which got over 10 percent each.
The local election commission ruled that the ballots cast for the bloc translate into 17 seats in the 33-member municipal council, just enough for it to reelect Balasanian. Citing a clause in the Electoral Code that allows election winners to get extra bonus votes, the commission awarded Balasanian’s bloc two seats in the Gyumri council that were actually won by the BHK and Armenian Revival.
The two parties protested angrily against the controversial move, boycotting the first session of the council which saw Balasanian formally reelected and inaugurated. They went on to challenge the distribution of the council seats at the Administrative Court.
The court dismissed the appeal, saying that the election commission acted in accordance with the Electoral Code.
Hovannes Markarian, an Armenian Revival, criticized the ruling, while acknowledging that it did not come as a surprise for his party formerly called Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law). He said the court backed the electoral body’s “arbitrary interpretation” of Armenian law.
Markarian said at the same time that the legal provision providing for bonus votes may well be unconstitutional. “The court should have at least asked the Constitutional Court to clarify that,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Balasanian, 62, is a businessman who has run the country’s second largest city for the past four years. He was a member of the Armenian parliament from 1999-2012.
Incidentally, Balasanian has been affiliated with both Armenian Revival and the BHK in the past.