The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Tuesday dismissed as a “propaganda ploy” opposition calls for a televised debate between Yerevan’s Mayor Taron Markarian and Nikol Pashinian, his main challenger in the upcoming municipal elections.
A senior representative of Pashinian’s Yelk opposition alliance, Alen Simonian challenged Markarian at the weekend to present the results of his five-year tenure to Yerevan voters during such a debate.
“Our task is not [to engage in] debates that are an end in themselves,” said Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman and Makarian’s campaign manager. “Our task is to present our accomplishments and plans to residents of the capital by means of direct communication.”
“Later [in the election campaign] our campaign headquarters will decide whether there is need for such a propaganda ploy,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We might agree to it, but we are not discussing such a scenario at this point.”
“We pursue pro-active policies and campaigns and do not wait for one or another political group to force or guide our campaign,” added Sharmazanov.
Yerevan’s next mayor will be chosen by a new municipal council to be elected on May 14. Campaigning for the polls will officially start on Friday.
Markarian, 39, has been in office since 2011. The HHK leadership nominated him for reelection earlier this month. Accordingly, the mayor tops the list of the ruling party’s municipal election candidates.
The HHK is challenged by only two opposition groups: Yelk and the newly established Yerkir Tsirani party of Zaruhi Postanjian, an outspoken member of Armenia’s outgoing parliament.
Postanjian vowed to topple Markarian and accused the HHK of misrule as she effectively launched her election campaign on Tuesday. “Their long-running rule has been disastrous for Armenia and Yerevan in particular,” she told reporters, standing outside the ruins of the city’s ancient Erebuni fortress.
Postanjian went on to accuse Markarian of illegally using his position to enrich himself and his family. She pointed to his income and asset declaration filed with the municipal election commission.
The mayor, whose late father Andranik Markarian served as Armenia’s prime minister from 2000-2007, declared $600,000 in cash and scores of expensive real estate holdings in various parts of the city.
“I have held a state position for almost ten years and have made no fortune and could not have made a fortune because you just can’t earn that much with your salary,” said Postanjian. “Besides, under that work burden you can’t engage in entrepreneurial activity to make more money.”