The governor of Armenia’s central Kotayk province on Monday ruled out the possibility of a well-known opposition candidate’s victory in the upcoming mayoral election in the regional capital Hrazdan.
The election slated for this Sunday has pitted Hrazdan’s incumbent Mayor Aram Danielian, a member of the ruling Republican Party (HHK), against Sasun Mikaelian, the local leader of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). It will be a major test for both political forces ahead of the parliamentary elections due in May.
“I am convinced that [Mikaelian] will not get elected,” Kotayk Governor Kovalenko Shahgaldian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “He has no chance because the people of Hrazdan are very clever, their worldview is very broad, and I don’t think they will let him become mayor.”
Shahgaldian, who is also affiliated with the ruling HHK, said that Mikaelian already served as Hrazdan mayor from 1996-1999 and had a poor track record. “I have made clear to everyone that I will be actively supporting Aram Danielian’s candidacy because he is a longtime member of our party and would make a better mayor than the other candidate,” he added.
Mikaelian, who was a parliament deputy from 1999-2008, dismissed Shahgaldian’s forecast, saying that the governor should “leave Hrazdan and Kotayk alone.” “I’ll win, whether or not they like it … I won’t allow people like the governor to ruin the people’s lives,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The oppositionist again claimed that the local and regional administrations are pressuring public-sector employees to vote for Danielian. He said some local residents have lost their jobs because of openly supporting him.
Shahgaldian denied that and said Mikaelian himself rigged a mayoral election in Hrazdan in 1996, when HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian was Armenia’s president. “Those who are saying this held elections in the same fashion in the 1990s,” he said. “The Hrazdan people have a very good memory.”
A prominent veteran of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Mikaelian was loyal to the country’s current ruling establishment until Ter-Petrosian’s return to active politics in late 2007. He was stripped of his parliament seat in 2009 after being sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of organizing the March 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan. Mikaelian, who rejected the charges as politically motivated, was released from prison in May last year following a general amnesty declared by the Armenian authorities.