The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) expressed confidence at the weekend that it will retain control over the Yerevan municipality as a result of next month’s mayoral elections.
Voters in the Armenian capital will go to the polls on May 14 to elect, on a party-list basis, a new municipal council that will in turn pick the city mayor. The HHK leadership has nominated Yerevan’s incumbent Mayor Taron Markarian for reelection.
Markarian, in office since 2011, will be challenged by Nikol Pashinian, one of the leaders of the Yelk opposition alliance, and Zaruhi Postanjian, the founder of the newly established opposition party Yerkir Tsirani. Yelk came in third in the April 2 parliamentary elections, winning 9 of the 105 seats in Armenia’s National Assembly. It got most of its votes in Yerevan.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief HHK spokesman and Markarian’s campaign manager, insisted that neither opposition force stands a chance of defeating his party. He claimed that Yelk will only be looking to “legitimize its top opposition status.” Sharmazanov was even more dismissive about Yerkir Tsirani, saying that Postanjian is its only member known to the public.
“In my view, we will have a [new city] council headed by Taron Markarian that will be able to address issues facing the people of Yerevan,” Sharmazanov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He said that the incumbent mayor has achieved “quite serious progress” in his areas of responsibility.
Alen Simonian, a senior Yelk representative, scoffed at Sharmazanov’s remarks, challenging Markarian to agree to a televised debate with Pashinian. “I am making the following proposal and challenge: to organize a debate between Mr. Markarian and Mr Pashinian in which Mr. Markarian would present the results of his work to Yerevan residents,” said Simonian.
“If this proposal is accepted I will only be happy. If not, I will think that Mr. Sharmazanov and his campaign headquarters and their candidate are simply scared,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Simonian also claimed that Yelk expects to garner three times as many votes as it got in Yerevan in the parliamentary elections, even though it thinks that the HHK will again abuse its administrative resources and bribe voters. “Yelk has nothing to legitimize,” he said. “Our voters are not bribed voters. We have real votes and those people will again be turning out and voting for Yelk. What is more, we will triple our result in Yerevan.”
Postanjian also hit out at Markarian’s track record, citing lingering problems with public transportation and traffic congestion in the city. “There are many issues in Yerevan that require urgent solutions,” she said, adding that the HHK has failed to address them.