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Voting Underway In Yerevan Elections


Armenia - Municipal elections, Yerevan, 31May, 2009

Voting started on Sunday morning in the first municipal elections in Yerevan in almost two decades that will determine the city’s next mayor and ascertain the current balance of forces in Armenian politics.

At stake are 65 seats in the Armenian capital’s newly established Council of Elders empowered to elect Yerevan mayors. They have until now been appointed by the presidents of the republic.

All of the council seats are contested under the system of proportional representation, with six political parties and one alliance in the running. They need to garner at least 7 percent and 9 percent of the vote respectively in order to be represented in the municipal assembly. The party or block winning over 40 percent of the vote would automatically see its top candidate become mayor.

Early indications were that the voter turnout, although visibly lower than in last year’s presidential ballot, is rather high for an Armenian local election. In some polling stations visited by RFE/RL correspondents between 10 and 15 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots by noon, four hours after the start of voting. The Central Election Commission was due to release the first turnout figures in the afternoon.

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian votes in the May 31, 2009 municipal elections in Yerevan.
President Serzh Sarkisian refused to take questions from journalists after voting in an electoral precinct in downtown Yerevan in the morning. “Today is a day of silence,” he said.









Armenia -- Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian votes in the May 31, 2009 municial elections in Yerevan.
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the leader of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), also declined a comment as he cast his ballot in the same polling station a couple of hours later.









Other leading election contenders agreed to speak to journalists. “My mood is very good,” said Gagik Beglarian, the incumbent Yerevan mayor and the top candidate of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), the presumptive election favorite. “This election is very important for every Yerevan resident, and my expectations are very high.”
Armenia -- Mayor Gagik Beglarian speaks to journalists after voting in the May 31, 2009 elections in Yerevan.



“Let it be a free and fair election,” added Beglarian.

“I both hope and believe that these elections will be a step forward: honest and clean, which is very important to all of us,” said Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian, the mayoral candidate of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the HHK’s junior partner in the governing coalition.

Artsvik Minasian, the mayoral candidate of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), was less sanguine in that regard. “We will wait and see the course [of the polls,]” he said. “If there are falsifications we will try to intervene and prevent them.”
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