The opposition minority in Yerevan’s municipal council accused Mayor Taron Markarian of misusing public funds on Tuesday as he pushed through the city budget for next year drafted by his administration.
The budget calls for 80.2 billion drams ($166 million) in expenditure and almost as much in revenue. The council controlled by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) passed it by 47 votes to 16.
Voting against it were council members representing the opposition Yelk alliance and the more radical Yerkir Tsirani party.
Yelk councilors said the budget will waste taxpayers’ money on useless programs while ignoring some of the Armenian capital’s pressing needs.One of them, Ani Samsonian, complained that the municipal administration has no plans to replace aging and increasingly dangerous elevators of many apartment blocks in the city.
Yerkir Tsirani councilors were even more critical. One of them, Marine Khachatrian, launched personal attacks on Markarian. In particular, she charged that the mayor uses budgetary funds to buy expensive suits for himself.
Markarian brushed aside the allegations, implying that Yerkir Tsirani receives lavish funding from foreign donors. “As regards your claims about our clothing and foreign trips, I must tell you that a lot has actually changed in your attire, your hairstyle and your gait ever since you were elected to the council,” he said. “So stop it.”
“You can’t carry on with empty talk,” he added angrily during a continued verbal exchange with Khachatrian.
Khachatrian and the two other Yerkir Tsirani councilors, including the party leader Zaruhi Postanjian, were jeered by the HHK majority when they walked out of the assembly in protest afterwards.
The leader of the Yelk faction in the council, Davit Khazhakian, also rebuked them, saying that they are too disruptive.“Your plan to raise hell affects us too, which I understand wasn’t one of your goals,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of Markarian’s deputies, Vahe Nikoyan, rejected the opposition criticism of the budget. He said that neither opposition faction has submitted any concrete proposals on redistributing expenditures planned by the municipal administration.