Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian may be the top candidate of the Yelk alliance in next month’s municipal elections in Yerevan.
Voters in the Armenian capital will go to the polls on May 14 to elect a new municipal council that will in turn choose the city mayor. The current Yerevan council is controlled by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Political parties and blocs interested in contesting the ballot need to apply for registration with the Central Election Commission (CEC) by Sunday evening. The CEC said on Wednesday that none of them has submitted their lists of candidates and other registration documents so far.
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, said earlier this week that Yerevan’s incumbent Mayor Taron Markarian is likely to be nominated by the ruling party for reelection. He praised Markarian’s track record in office.
Markarian, 38, is expected to be challenged by Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia (BHK), which has the second largest group in the outgoing municipal council. A BHK-dominated alliance finished second in Armenia’s parliamentary elections held on April 2.
A spokeswoman for Tsarukian, Iveta Tonoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the influential businessman and his allies have not yet decided who their mayoral candidate will be. “Those discussions are now in progress and a final decision will be made soon,” she said.
The BHK is officially in opposition to the Armenian government. However, its Yerevan councilors have rarely criticized the municipal administration or challenged its decisions.
Yelk came in a distant third in the parliamentary elections, garnering about 8 percent of the vote. The bloc got roughly 14 percent in Yerevan, according to the CEC.
Only one of its top leaders, Pashinian, resides in Yerevan and is therefore eligible to run for the post of mayor. Edmon Marukian, another Yelk leader who is based in Vanadzor, said the bloc has not yet made a final decision on the municipal polls.
Nor have other major opposition groups clarified their plans so far. Those include the ORO alliance of former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and former Foreign Ministers Raffi Hovannisian and Vartan Oskanian.
Another senior ORO figure, Armen Martirosian, said on Wednesday that he thinks the bloc, which failed to win any parliament seats, should boycott the May 14 elections “because the public is now in a slightly different mood.” “We need to wait for this information haze to dissipate,” Martirosian told reporters.