The Armenian government formally dissolved Yerevan’s municipal council on Thursday, paving the way for snap local elections that will be held in the second half of September.
The new council will choose a replacement for Taron Markarian, who resigned as mayor on July 9 under pressure from Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his political allies.
Markarian is a senior member of former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which holds a solid majority in the outgoing municipal legislature elected in May 2017. The HHK decided not to replace him by another mayor affiliated with the former ruling party. It also ensured that the council does not make a quorum anymore.
Under Armenian law, the elections must be held in between 30 and 40 days. Their precise date has to be set by the Central Election Commission (CEC). According to the CEC secretary, Armen Smbatian, the vote will be held in the second half of next month.
Five Armenian parties, including Pashinian’s Civil Contract, have already nominated mayoral candidates that will top their electoral lists. Civil Contract’s candidate, Hayk Marutian, is a 41-year-old actor famous for his performances in comedy shows aired by Armenian TV channels.
One of Marutian’s main challengers will be Naira Zohrabian of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the country’s second largest parliamentary force led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian. Another major contender is Zaruhi Postanjian, an outspoken politician whose Yerkir Tsirani party has also been represented in the outgoing city council. It remains unclear whether the HHK will also join the mayoral race.
Announcing the council’s dissolution, Pashinian said the government will make sure that the upcoming polls are free and fair. He said law-enforcement bodies would act “rapidly, drastically and effectively” against anyone attempting to hand out vote bribes or commit other irregularities.
“I am sure that this is what is going to happen, but I also hope that nobody -- I mean notorious groups and circles -- will succumb to the temptation of trying their luck,” warned Pashinian.
Valeri Osipian, the chief of the Armenian police who attended a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan, assured reporters that the elections will be “unprecedented” in terms of their proper conduct.