Highlighting serious differences existing among them, Armenia’s leading opposition parties have failed to form any alliances for upcoming municipal elections in Gyumri and Vanadzor.
Voters there will go to the polls on October 2 to elect, on a party-list basis, new municipal councils that will in turn pick the mayors of the country’s second and third largest cities.
The elections in Gyumri and Vanadzor will be contested by seven and six opposition parties respectively. Among them are former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract and the recently formed Consolidation party of former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
None of the opposition parties have managed to join forces, making it easier for President Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) to maintain their control of the two municipalities.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, said his party did attempt to team up with other opposition contenders but could not reach agreements with any of them. “We could now engage in all kinds of insinuations or make all kinds of comments but that would make no sense,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Zurabian said that some opposition parties, which he did not name, refused to enter into blocs because they may be controlled by the Armenian government. “Also, there were [opposition] forces that said from the outset that they will go it alone,” he said.
Krist Marukian, the top candidate in Vanadzor of a new opposition party called Bright Armenia, said he had negotiated with representatives of the HAK, Civil Contract, Consolidation and Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) in an attempt to form an electoral bloc. The talks ended in failure because of opposition leaders’ “unfounded ambitions,” he claimed.
“It will be clear early on October 3 who is strong and where,” said Marukian.
The fragmented opposition is looking to capitalize on widespread discontent with Armenian government that has been particularly visible in Gyumri. Sarkisian fared very poorly in the impoverished city during Armenia’s last presidential election held in 2013. Most local voters also did not back his controversial constitutional changes in last December’s nationwide referendum.
This might explain why Sarkisian’s HHK is contesting the Gyumri election in an alliance with a small pro-government party and Samvel Balasanian, the city’s incumbent mayor formally not affiliated with the ruling party. The alliance is officially called Balasanian, leading observers to suggest that the authorities in Yerevan hope that many Gyumri voters will not associate it with the Armenian president.