Karen Karapetian, who has been chief executive of the Armenian-Russian joint venture, ArmRosGazprom, since 2001, was named candidate for the top city post by the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) to succeed Gagik Beglarian, a controversial mayor who resigned earlier this month after being embroiled in a high-profile scandal with the presidential administration.
In what was largely a rubberstamp vote by the Council of Elders, an elected body of representatives in Yerevan, Karapetian won the backing of 50 assembly members, with only one voting against.
The 47-year-old business manager was a candidate on the HHK official ticket during the disputed May 2009 municipal elections in which President Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling party achieved a landslide victory. Eventually, he did not enter the municipal body.
In his remarks after the voting, Karapetian first thanked the Council of Elders, the HHK and its leader, Sarkisian, for “trusting” him and called for “a new municipal culture” that he said would “satisfy both the citizens and guests of Yerevan”.
Karapetian also assured leaders in Yerevan districts that there would not be sweeping personnel changes.
“But there will be rules and requirements to managers,” he said. “Those who meet these requirements will stay, those who don’t will go.”
The mayor-elect spoke respectfully of his predecessor answering a media question.
“To be honest, I think that Gagik Beglarian made some good steps. Each new mayor of Yerevan comes to continue the programs of the previous mayor that were passed through the Council of Elders,” he stressed.
Karapetian, who, unlike his predecessor, is not a member of the HHK, emphasized his support for the party, but added that he didn’t have a decision yet to join its ranks.
Armenia -- Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, holds a news conference on January 12, 2010.
Meanwhile, the Armenian opposition has voiced skepticism regarding the change of city leadership.
Levon Zurabian, a senior member of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), said that “like Beglarian, Karapetian became mayor as a result of rigged elections.”
“Naturally, we do not consider either to be an authority elected by the people,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
The HAK led by ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian won a minority representation in the 2009 municipal elections that it said was heavily rigged in favor of the ruling party. The opposition alliance chose not to pick its mandates and thus effectively boycott the work of the body.
A representative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) was less categorical in his assessments.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service Artsvik Minasian described Karapetian as “a good manager, but not a politician”.
“Since the Yerevan municipality, or the Council of Elders, is formed on a political basis, in this case I would refrain from evaluating his political approaches,” said Minasian.
Lawmaker Larisa Alaverdian, representing the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) faction, meanwhile, voiced expectations that the new mayor would “put an end to corruption and finally make sure that the decisions of the mayor’s office correspond to the Constitution and laws.”
Armenia -- Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsian (L) and Finance Minister Tigran Davtian.
On the eve of the vote at Yerevan’s Council of Elders, the HHK leadership also approved several changes in the government at Sarkisian’s suggestion.
Those included the replacement of Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsian with Finance Minister Tigran Davtian and appointing Central Bank Deputy Governor Vache Gabrielian as the latter’s successor.
The HHK board also approved Sarkisian’s nomination of prominent law expert Hrair Tovmasian as justice minister. The position had remained vacant since December 9 when the president fired Gevorg Danielian for what the government described as his failure to punish one of his high-ranking subordinates allegedly involved in violent conduct.
The ministerial portfolios in question belong to the HHK under its power-sharing deal with two junior coalition partners.
Armenia - Vazgen Khachikian, former head of State Service of Social Welfare, Undated
All the changes were confirmed on Friday with official orders issued by President Sarkisian.
Also on Friday, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsian issued an order sacking Vazgen Khachikian, the head of the State Social Security Service.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service late on Thursday, HHK spokesman Edward Sharmazanov said the changes were aimed at “raising the efficiency of the government’s work.”