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Tsarukian Concedes Election Defeat


Armenia - Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukian speaks in Yerevan, 4 September 2018.

Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian on Monday recognized the official results of the weekend municipal elections in Yerevan which gave a landslide victory to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s bloc.

According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), the My Step bloc won as much as 81 percent of the vote, more than enough to install its top candidate, Hayk Marutian, as new mayor of the Armenian capital. Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) came in a distant second with only 7 percent of the vote.

“While categorically rejecting the [Pashinian camp’s] dangerous approach of dividing the society into [political] blacks and whites, the Prosperous Armenia Party accepts the election results and congratulates the My Step bloc,” Tsarukian said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“I also want to thank my team for its principled, intelligent and correct campaign,” added the BHK leader. “We hope that all programs promised to the people of Yerevan will be implemented.”

A senior BHK parliamentarian, Vahe Enfiajian, would not say whether his party is disappointed with its performance. Instead, he seemed to downplay Pashinian’s electoral triumph, arguing that the CEC put voter turnout at only 43.7 percent.

“I want to understand the reason why the turnout in Yerevan was low despite the revolutionary atmosphere and mood,” Enfiajian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “For me, as a Yerevan resident, this is the most concerning fact.”

The BHK and Pashinian’s political team traded bitter recriminations during the election campaign. On September 17, Tsarukian’s party alleged a smear campaign waged against its mayoral candidate, Naira Zohrabian, through online and social media.

The prime minister’s allies strongly denied seeking to discredit Zohrabian. One of them said in that context that the BHK has a long history of cooperation with former President Serzh Sarkisian.

The BHK also cried foul when one of its campaign offices in Yerevan was searched by the police on Saturday on suspicion of handing out vote bribes. Zohrabian claimed afterwards that during the election campaign 300 BHK activists were detained and questioned by the police on the same grounds.

The BHK, which has the second largest faction in the Armenian parliament, supported Pashinian-led mass protests that led to Sarkisian’s resignation in late April. It received five ministerial posts in the country’s new government formed shortly after Pashinian became prime minister in early May.

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