Another opposition party announced on Wednesday that it will stop boycotting sessions of Gyumri’s municipal assembly in protest against official results of local elections held in Armenia’s second largest city last October.
Gyumri’s Mayor Samvel Balasanian was reelected as a result of a controversial distribution of seats in the new assembly carried out by the local election authority.
A pro-government bloc led by Balasanian garnered about 35 percent of the vote in the elections. The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) finished second with 21.6 percent, followed by two other opposition parties, Armenian Revival and GALA, which got over 10 percent each.
The local election commission ruled that the ballots cast for Balasanian’s bloc translate into 17 seats in the 33-member municipal council, just enough for it to reelect the incumbent mayor. Citing a clause in the Electoral Code that allows election winners to get extra bonus votes, the commission awarded the bloc two seats in the Gyumri council that were actually won by the BHK and Armenian Revival.
The three parties protested angrily against the controversial move, boycotting the first session of the council which saw Balasanian sworn-in for a second term. They extended the boycott after Armenian courts rejected their appeals against the seat distribution.
Armenian Revival, which is led by former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, was the first to end the boycott. The four members of the Gyumri council representing it attended the last session of the legislature held earlier this summer.
A spokeswoman for GALA, Armenuhi Vartanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that her Gyumri-based party, which also holds four council seats, has decided to follow suit. She said the decision followed heated discussions among senior party members.
Vartanian admitted that GALA’s four councilors will find it hard to push decisions through the assembly narrowly controlled by the Gyumri mayor. “This was also a reason for differing opinions within our team,” she explained.
Meanwhile, the BHK has yet to decide whether or not the eight councilors representing it will also take part in sessions of the municipal assembly. Vartevan Grigorian, the party’s mayoral candidate in the October 2016 elections, said the decision will be announced soon.
The BHK, which is headed by businessman Gagik Tsarukian, finished second in Armenia’s last parliamentary elections held in April. It claims to be in opposition to President Serzh Sarkisian.