Nevertheless, it may still manage to install the next mayor of the Armenian capital with the help of another party thought to be allied to Pashinian.
Preliminary election results showed Civil Contract doing better than all other contenders and winning roughly 33 percent of the vote. But it fell well short of an absolute majority in the Council of Elders empowered to appoint the mayor.
A party represented by Hayk Marutian, a former Yerevan mayor ousted by Civil Contract in 2021, came in second with about 19 percent, followed by a more radical opposition group, the Mayr Hayastan (Mother Armenia) bloc, which got 15.4 percent, according to the official vote tally.
In the biggest surprise of the day, a party led by Vartan Ghukasian, a controversial video blogger based in the United States, garnered 9.7 percent and also won seats in the city council. Earlier this year, Armenian law-enforcement authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Ghukasian and arrested his associates in Armenia on extortion charges strongly denied by them.
Civil Contract could only have a very narrow lead over the three political forces critical of Pashinian’s government if it teams up with the pro-Western Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party. The official results gave Hanrapetutyun 11.2 percent of the vote.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) also reported that only about 28.5 percent of Yerevan’s 824,250 eligible voters cast ballots on Sunday, the lowest figure ever recorded in the city. It appears to reflect in part a lack of interest in the mayoral race shown by Armenia’s two main opposition groups.
The Hayastan and Pativ Unem alliances did not participate in the polls. Hayastan contented itself with endorsing Mayr Hayastan shortly after the start of the election campaign.
Some senior members of the two blocs portrayed the low turnout and the ruling party’s worse-than-expected performance as a massive setback for Pashinian. They claimed that the election outcome will precipitate his downfall.
“A political force that got 294,092 votes in the 2018 Yerevan elections has only 80,000 votes five years later,” Hayastan’s Gegham Manukian said in an overnight Facebook post.
“It doesn’t matter anymore who will become the mayor of Yerevan,” wrote Pativ Unem’s Eduard Sharmazanov. “The fact is that the vast majority of Yerevan residents rejected the Nikolists.”
Pashinian and his party’s mayoral candidate, Tigran Avinian, did not rush to comment on the election results as they were gradually released by the CEC during the night.