Yerevan’s embattled Mayor Taron Markarian on Wednesday denied through a spokesman reports that he has decided to resign.
Markarian came under pressure to step down after mass protests brought down in late April Armenia’s former government headed by Serzh Sarkisian. He is a senior member of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The protest leader, Nikol Pashinian, took over as the country’s new prime minister on May 8.
The pressure grew two weeks ago when the National Security Service (NSS) searched the offices of a municipal fund supervised by the 40-year-old mayor. The Yerevan Fund’s executive director and another municipal official were detained on suspicion of extorting hefty payments to the charity from individuals seeking construction permits from the mayor’s office.
Markarian raised more questions about his political future on Tuesday when he failed to attend and chair a session of Yerevan’s municipal council. Deputy Mayor Kamo Areyan claimed that he is ill.
Davit Khazhakian, a council member affiliated with Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, said afterwards that Markarian signed a letter of resignation “two or three days ago” but is not publicizing it for now because it is not yet clear who and how will choose his successor. Khazhakian linked the alleged resignation with the corruption inquiry conducted by the NSS.
“I refute, do not confirm Davit Khazhakian’s statement,” Markarian’s spokesman, Artur Gevorgian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “There is no such information,” he said.
Gevorgian insisted that Markarian is continuing to perform his duties. In particular, he said, Markarian met with a visiting deputy mayor of the Russian city of Saint Petersburg earlier in the day.