They will vie for 33 seats in the municipal council that will elect the next mayor of Armenia’s second largest city.
Gyumri has been run by Samvel Balasanian, a local businessman, for the last nine years. He was allied to the former Armenian government that helped him win reelection in 2016.
Although Balasanian has decided not to seek another term in office, a newly created party bearing his name has joined the mayoral race. Its list of election candidates is topped by one of the outgoing mayor’s relatives, Vardges Sanosian. The latter heads a municipal agency providing utility services.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party is expected to be the pro-Balasanian party’s main challenger. Civil Contract’s mayoral candidate, Hovannes Harutiunian, is the governor of Shirak province, of which Gyumri is the capital.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service at the weekend, Harutiunian did not say why he agreed to run for a less important position in the state hierarchy. He said only that he made a “very difficult decision.”
Harutiunian also insisted that Civil Contract will not abuse its administrative resources in a bid to install him as Gyumri mayor.
The ruling party was accused by its political opponents of committing such abuses in the June 20 parliamentary elections. Its election campaign in Shirak was managed by the current provincial governor.
Only one major national opposition group, former President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia, will participate in the Gyumri election. The main opposition Hayastan alliance led by another ex-president, Robert Kocharian, has decided to sit out the vote.
Two opposition parties affiliated with Hayastan have also refrained from participating in it on their own. But they will field candidates in local elections that will held in other parts of Armenia in October and November.
The Central Election Commission should register all election contenders, among them three Gyumri-based blocs, by September 17.