Meanwhile, the My Step bloc controlled by the ruling Civil Contract party officially announced its decision to oust Marutian, who fell out with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian after last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
More than 40 members of the 65-seat city council have already signed up to the no confidence motion. Pashinian’s political allies control at least 54 seats in the council empowered to appoint and dismiss mayors.
Senior members of My Step met with Pashinian on Thursday evening to discuss the impeachment bid. In a statement issued after the meeting, they said that Marutian quit Civil Contract and severed ties with the council majority in December 2020 and is not running the Armenian capital “with sufficient efficiency.”
The bloc has therefore decided to replace Marutiuan by one of his deputies, Hrachya Sargsian, added the statement.
Marutian’s spokesman, Hakob Karapetian, said shortly before the announcement that the mayor “has no intention or reason to tender his resignation.”
Marutian himself did not comment on the ruling political team’s push to replace him. But he did thank Yerevan residents for their support in a Facebook post that attracted an unusually large number of “likes.”
“For my part, I will raise your spirits now,” he wrote in the morning, announcing his decisions to buy more commuter buses and apartment building elevators for Yerevan.
Marutian, 45, is a former TV comedian who actively participated in the “velvet revolution” that brought Pashinian to power in May 2018. He was handpicked by Pashinian to lead My Step’s list of candidates in the last municipal elections held in September 2018 and won by the pro-government bloc.
Marutian increasingly distanced himself from Pashinian after Armenia’s defeat in the 2020 war with Azerbaijan. He pointedly declined to support Pashinian’s Civil Contract party in the run-up to snap parliamentary elections held in June.
Some council members affiliated with My Step openly disagreed with the decision to oust the mayor. “I don’t want to be part of that process,” one of them, Grigor Yeritsian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Izabella Abgarian, a former My Step member who resigned from the council a year ago, denounced Marutian’s likely removal as a “blow to democracy in Armenia.”
“They not only harm Yerevan’s interests but also ignore the views of Yerevan residents,” said Abgarian. “No matter how much they say that people voted for Nikol Pashinian [in September 2018,] the list of [candidates for] the council was topped by Marutian. The people of Yerevan usually elect a mayor, not a council. Most Yerevan residents are not even familiar with the composition of the city council.”
Abgarian said it would be much fairer to resolve Pashinian’s dispute with Marutian through a snap municipal election. She suggested that the prime minister and his party are afraid of losing such an election after suffering serious setbacks in recent local polls held in other parts of Armenia.