Candidates of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) were defeated in around three dozen communities across the country in local elections held on Sunday.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), almost 320,000 Armenians went to the polls to elect the local government bodies of 317 villages and small towns. The CEC reported on Monday a combined voter turnout of almost 50 percent in those mainly rural areas.
The Armenpress news agency quoted a senior HHK representative as saying that the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian won 161 of those contests, underlining its nationwide grip on power. The HHK suffered defeats in about 30 other communities, however.
Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK lawmaker, sought to downplay the setbacks, while attributing them to the ruling party’s “incorrect policies” towards those communities. He suggested that the HHK might have picked wrong candidates there or avoided turning its back on unpopular incumbent mayors affiliated with it.
“There are many problems in those three dozen communities,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We need to revise things, change the strategy and tactics.”
“What happened is not a tragedy,” he said. “We need to revise our programs, approaches and actions in those communities.”
Sahakian was careful not to comment on the local polls’ implications for Armenia’s parliamentary elections due in April 2017. “It’s the voters who make a choice,” he said. “None of us can say that we will win or lose.”
One of the communities where the HHK suffered a setback is Nor Kyank, a village in the southern Ararat province. Its incumbent Republican mayor, Mayis Abrahamian, was defeated by Garik Sargsian, a 29-year-old candidate of Nikol Pashinian’s opposition Civil Contract party. Abrahamian governed the village for 17 years.
“The people of Nor Kyank voted for change,” Sargsian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He criticized the longtime village mayor’s track record.
Tsaghkahovit, a village in the central Aragatsotn province, also elected a new mayor. According to official vote results there, Norayr Hakobian, a non-partisan candidate, unseated the incumbent mayor, Yervand Khachatrian, by 364 votes to 311. A third candidate, Arayik Khandoyan, got 257 votes.
Khandoyan was one of 31 members of a radical opposition group that seized a police station in Yerevan in July to demand Sarkisian’s resignation. All of them were arrested after a two-week deadly standoff with Armenian security forces.