In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on Sunday, Arayik Harutiunian, chief advisor to the prime minister, denied, however, any ongoing discussions about the future of the mayor.
“It is very much regretful that Mr. Marutian showed such an attitude before the elections, since the mayor, who was nominated by the Civil Contract party and My Step Alliance [of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian], did not express his public support for Civil Contract during the election campaign. I regret this, because the votes due to which Mr. Marutian became the mayor of Yerevan, was largely for the political party that will now form the government for the second time,” Harutiunian said.
The senior official said that no discussions were currently underway regarding the mayor, but added that members of the ruling party had the same attitude in this matter.
“We should understand how to act in such a situation in order to make decisions on this issue within our party, but so that the city and city authorities do not suffer from it,” Harutiunian added.
Harutiunian’s remarks sparked fresh speculations about Marutian’s possible resignation.
Marutian, a popular actor and producer who supported Pashinian during the 2018 ‘Velvet Revolution’ and was elected mayor of Yerevan later that year in an election where the pro-Pashinian alliance scored a landslide victory, would not comment publicly on various media speculations in recent months and weeks about his disillusionment with politics and plans to quit.
After the June 20 snap parliamentary elections in which the Pashinian party retained its majority in the National Assembly a number of media reports suggested that the government planned a change of the mayor of Yerevan – Armenia’s capital and largest city with a population of about a million people.
In a Facebook post in the wake of the elections addressed rather to the opposition chief of the prime minister’s staff Arsen Torosian called on elected community leaders that had supported other political parties and alliances to take note of the Pashinian party’s landslide victory and decide on whether they wanted to continue in office or resign.
The post has sparked criticism from the opposition that also claims that pressure has been put on some local elected officials, including mayors, to resign.
Several weeks before the early elections Marutian, a member of the Civil Contract party, publicly hinted that he would remain politically neutral during the elections. “I am not interested in elections, I am busy doing my work,” he said in May.
But during the June 22 session of the Yerevan Council of Elders, which is a municipal assembly of elected representatives, Marutian congratulated the citizens on “holding free and transparent elections.”
Hakob Karapetian, a spokesperson for the Yerevan Mayor’s Office, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) on Monday that Marutian has no intentions to resign.
“The mayor of Yerevan, together with his team, actively continues to work, continues to implement the mandate given to him by the people of Yerevan in September 2018. The mandate was given by the people of Yerevan for a period of five years,” Karapetian stressed.
Izabella Abgarian, a member of Yerevan’s Council of Elders who quit the ruling My Step faction last November, said she did not like what Harutiunian said about Marutian in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
“Because it is not an internal party issue, they simply ought to respect the vote of the people,” she said.
“The mayor was elected by the people of Yerevan. Let’s not forget about the independence of local government bodies. Our list of candidates was headed by Hayk Marutian, not Nikol Pashinian, and people in Yerevan voted for Hayk Marutian and his program, which he is implementing. And I think it will be unfair to the people of Yerevan if the party makes a party decision,” she added.
Emin Yeritsian, the head of the Union of Communities of Armenia, meanwhile, stressed that the issue of the mayor of Yerevan should in any case be decided by the Council of Elders. “No one from the outside can make changes unless it is decided by the Council of Elders,” he said.