Former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) confirmed on Tuesday that it will not take part in next month’s snap municipal elections in Yerevan.
Voters in the Armenian capital will go to the polls on September 23 to elect a new municipal council that will in turn choose the city’s new mayor.
The previous, HHK-affiliated mayor, Taron Markarian, resigned on July 9 under pressure from Armenia’s new government. The former ruling party, which controls the outgoing city council, decided not to replace Markarian by another HHK representative, paving the way for the fresh elections.
A senior HHK figure, Galust Sahakian, said the party will not contest the upcoming polls either. He claimed that even if the HHK won them Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his allies would not tolerate another Republican mayor of Yerevan.
Another HHK representative, Eduard Sharmazanov, disagreed with the decision made by the party leadership. “There may be more important issues than local elections in Armenian politics right now, but I personally believe that every political force must actively take part in all elections,” he told reporters.
The HHK scored a landslide victory in the last Yerevan elections held in May 2017. Sarkisian’s party was accused by its political opponents of heavily relying on its financial and administrative resources.
So far nine political parties and blocs have entered the mayoral race. They include Pashinian’s Civil Contract party. Its mayoral candidate, TV comedian Hayk Marutian, is widely regarded as the election favorite.
Marutian’s challengers include Justice Minister Artak Zeynalian, who was nominated by two parties that make up, together with Civil Contract, the Yelk bloc. The bloc has failed to agree on a common candidate, highlighting growing differences among its members.