By Astghik Bedevian
A candidate of Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on Tuesday unexpectedly withdrew his lawsuit against the pro-government mayor of the southern town of Armavir who controversially defeated him in a recent local election.
The candidate, Arayik Aghababian, asked a local court to annul the official results of the March 25 vote, accusing the incumbent Mayor Ruben Khlghatian of resorting to serious fraud. Aghababian asked the presiding judge to call a halt to the two-day proceedings just as appeared to be winning the case.
The judge, Manvel Simonian, was clearly sympathetic to the plaintiff throughout the hearings, ordering a public recount of ballots in the courtroom and accepting other petitions from Aghababian’s lawyers. The court chairman, Hrach Sargsian, was also present in the court, openly issuing instructions to Simonian that favored the defeated candidate.
The latter alleged that the mayor won mainly as a result of illegally including scores of people, who do not live in Armavir and therefore can not elect its mayor, to the local vote registers.
Khlghatian, who is affiliated with the governing Republican Party (BHK), and his representatives denied any wrongdoing. “We won fair and square,” the mayor told RFE/RL.
Aghababian gave no reason for his surprise decision to withdraw the lawsuit. But local BHK activists said he acted in accordance with a last-minute order from the party’s leadership in Yerevan. Neither Tsarukian, nor his aides have commented on the election controversy so far.
The HHK and the BHK are seen as the top contenders of Armenia’s parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12. The Armavir vote highlighted their uneasy relationship which some observers say could develop into a serious confrontation in the coming weeks.