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Gyumri Election Winner Still Mum On New Mayor


Armenia -An election campaign poster of the Balasanian Bloc and its mayoral candidate Vardges Samsonian in Gyumri, October 25, 2021.

The political force that won the October 17 municipal election in Gyumri has yet to clarify whether it will team up with the ruling Civil Contract party or an opposition group to install the new mayor of Armenia’s second largest city.

Gyumri has been run by Samvel Balasanian, a local businessman, for the last nine years. He used to be allied to the former Armenian government that helped him win reelection in 2016.

Although Balasanian decided not to seek another term in office, a newly created bloc bearing his name joined the mayoral race.

The Balasanian Bloc garnered 36.6 percent of the vote, earning it 14 seats in the 33-member city council empowered to elect the mayor. In what is widely seen as a serious setback for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Civil Contract finished second with 11 seats.

The remaining eight seats will be distributed among three opposition parties. One of them, Zartonk (Awakening), will be represented in the local council by four members.

Zartonk proposed last week a coalition deal to the Balasanian Bloc which would allow the latter’s top election candidate, Vardges Samsonian, to become mayor. The bloc has still not responded to the offer.

“We don’t have a decision at the moment,” a spokesman for the Balasanian Bloc, Arman Shaboyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Monday. “We are holding discussions within our team.”

The new city council is scheduled to hold its inaugural session on November 4.

According to some media reports, the Balasanian Bloc is facing strong pressure from the central government to reach a power-sharing deal with Pashinian’s party and even cede the post of mayor to it. The bloc has not officially reacted to those reports.

Civil Contract has not commented on its post-election plans in Gyumri. Its mayoral candidate, Hovannes Harutiunian, is the governor of surrounding Shirak province.

Samvel Balasanian, the outgoing mayor, has made no public statements on the outcome of the local election. Balasanian has avoided openly challenging the current Armenian government ever since he took office in 2018.

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