Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party has chosen a prominent Armenian comedian as its candidate for the vacant post of Yerevan’s mayor.
The city’s previous mayor, Taron Markarian, resigned on July 9 under apparent pressure from Armenia’s new government.
Markarian, who had been in office since 2011, is a senior member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). He was reelected by the current city council in May 2017.
The HHK-controlled council deliberately failed to select a new mayor on July 16, paving the way for pre-term elections of a new municipal council.
Civil Contract is the first Armenian party to field a mayoral candidate. Its nominee, Hayk Marutian, is a 41-year-old actor famous for his performances in popular comedy shows aired by Armenian TV channels. He has also produced his own shows and films in the past several years.
A strong backer of Pashinian, Marutian actively participated in mass protests in April and May that brought down Armenia’s former government. He joined Civil Contract shortly after Pashinian became prime minister on May 8.
“If we win the elections I will be one of your and will be looking at city with your eyes,” Marutian told reporters late after most members of the party’s governing board backed his candidacy late on Sunday.
The popular comedian dismissed critics claims’ that his entertainment industry background does not make him fit to run the Armenian capital. “Acting has made up only 20 percent of my professional life for the last six years,” he said. “The remaining 80 percent has been my organizational and managerial work in our production company as well as … my political and civic activism.”
Marutian was one of four Civil Contract members vying for the party’s nomination for Yerevan mayor. The three other hopefuls were parliament deputy Alen Simonian, Deputy Labor Minister Zaruhi Batoyan and an aide to Pashinian, Srbuhi Ghazarian.
Meanwhile, Pashinian’s government remains in no rush to dissolve the current city council and call snap municipal elections. Minister for Local Government Suren Papikian said on Monday that it wants to make sure that the Central Election Commission has enough time to organize the polls.
“Yerevan is home to about half of the country’s population and we need to properly prepare [for the elections,]” Papikian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He indicated that they will he held in September.