Yerevan Votes for New Municipal Assembly

Winning Party to Appoint City’s Mayor

YEREVAN (A.W.)—On May 31, Yerevan residents turned out at the polls to vote in the first-ever city municipal assembly elections. As of 11:25 p.m., approximately 53 percent of 771,477 registered voters had turned out at the polls. Voting precincts closed their doors promptly at 8 p.m. to begin the vote tallying process.

In the municipal elections, Yerevan residents were indirectly voting for a mayor. Rather than electing a candidate, voters instead were casting ballots for political parties, each of which has its own contender for the mayoral seat.

At stake are 65 seats of the municipal assembly. The party that secures 40 percent or more of the total counted votes wins the mandate to appoint its candidate as mayor. A party must earn at least seven percent of the vote to have representation in the assembly.

The two main rival camps in the contest were the governing Republican party—whose candidate, the incumbent Gagik Beglaryan, was appointed only two months ago—and the Armenian National Congress, fronted by Levon Ter-Petrossian.

Beglaryan, who is known to have extensive business interests and has earned the popular nickname “Black Gago,” was previously the municipal head of Central Yerevan. 

Ter-Petrossian, backed by the opposition Congress bloc, is seeking to take control of what may considered to be the second most powerful political position in the country. Many believe, assuming that the elections are considered free and fair, that the Congress will win the majority of the vote. It would need to secure 9 percent of the vote, however, for representation in the assembly.

The mayor of Yerevan had traditionally been appointed by the President of Armenia. An amendment to the Armenian constitution in 2005 stipulated that the mayor be elected. The amendment was widely considered a way to placate the West to show that Armenia was sincere in its efforts for becoming more democratic.

Other relevant political parties vying for control of the majority of municipal assembly seats include the Orinats Yerkir, Prosperous Armenia, and the ARF-Dashnaktsutiun.

At early evening Armenia TV reported virtually no incidents of vote falsifications. ALM’s news report, however, reported an incident at Yerevan’s “39th School” whereby voters marked their ballots on tables positioned in a way that election “observers” could check how they were voting.

There were several reports of harassment against journalists at various locations, some of who had their recorders and photo equipment confiscated or even damaged. 

In Yerevan’s Malatia-Sebastia district there were many allegations of vote buying and ballot stuffing.

The most peculiar report of election fraud was the transporting of 500 Gyumri residents to Yerevan for the alleged purposes of casting ballots. They were reported to be Gyumri administrative employees. The city’s mayor, Republican party member Vartan Ghukasyan, purportedly coordinated the caravan of several minibuses which were taken off their normal transportation routes. The convoy was supervised by deputy mayor Gagik Manukyan. The vans parked in front of the Football Federation of Armenia’s offices, and small groups of passengers were then taken away in taxis to various destinations. A similar incident of transporting municipal employees to Yerevan was reported to have occurred in Vanadzor.  

Artsvik Minasyan, the prospective ARF mayoral candidate, pledged that the political party would investigate any violations deemed unjust alongside other political forces if necessary, including the Armenian National Congress. The Heritage party on the other hand had already reported three election violations by mid-afternoon.

The final election results are expected to be announced on Monday morning.

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Christian Garbis

Christian Garbis is a writer and experimental filmmaker born and raised in Greater Boston. He received his BA in English and Certificate in Film Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has been contributing to the Armenian Weekly since 1994 and has served as an assistant editor for the paper. He lives in Yerevan with his wife and son and maintains two blogs documenting his impressions: Notes From Hairenik and Footprints Armenia. His first novel is partly based on his experiences in Armenia.

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