Yerevan mayor ousted by ruling party

Former Yerevan mayor Hayk Marutyan (Photo: Facebook, August 31, 2021)

The Yerevan city council has removed Hayk Marutyan from his post as mayor through a motion of no confidence initiated by the ruling party. 

The Civil Contract Party announced its decision to pursue the removal of Marutyan from his position as mayor in a Facebook post on December 16. The party accused Marutyan of failing to fulfill the promises set forth in the My Step pre-election platform, including the “important mission of eliminating systemic corruption in the Yerevan municipality.”

“The obligations and mandate undertaken by the party in front of the people of Yerevan cannot be realized when the municipality has severed ties with the political majority of the city council, the My Step faction,” the post reads.

The party nominated Hrachya Sargsyan, one of Marutyan’s deputy mayors, to replace him. 

Hayk Marutyan and PM Nikol Pashinyan (Photo: Facebook, August 28, 2018)

Marutyan is a former ally of PM Nikol Pashinyan. He was elected mayor of Yerevan in September 2018 after the Velvet Revolution as a member of the Civil Contract Party of the My Step bloc, which garnered 80-percent of the vote in the capital city. His relationship with Pashinyan began to deteriorate after the 2020 Artsakh War. In December 2020, he left the Civil Contract Party, while remaining in the My Step faction. He notably refused to endorse Pashinyan’s campaign during the June 2021 snap parliamentary elections. 

Prior to the announcement by the Civil Contract Party on December 16, the Armenian Times newspaper, owned by Pashinyan’s family, published an article alleging that Marutyan had ties with former president and head of the opposition Armenia Alliance Robert Kocharyan. 

Marutyan denied that he had any connections with Kocharyan, claiming in a Facebook post on December 16 that he had never met him “under any conditions, even by accident.” Kocharyan later told the press that he does not know Marutyan personally. 

Marutyan also said that he did not intend to cooperate with any political party, in response to the announcement by the Civil Contract Party to pursue his removal. 

On December 22, Marutyan was removed from office by a vote of no confidence and replaced by Sargsyan, with 44 votes for and 10 against his dismissal by the city council. 

In his final speech as mayor, Marutyan delivered a scathing criticism of the Civil Contract Party. He said that the party had abandoned the “revolutionary ideals” he had been accused of deserting.

Marutyan claimed that members of the party who came to power after the Velvet Revolution had sought to enrich themselves rather than tackling widespread poverty in the nation. He denounced the secret decisions by the Pashinyan administration to sharply raise the salaries of heads of ministries. 

“I thought the primary goal of a revolutionary would be to improve the lives of others, but in reality they came and immediately started improving their own lives, despite the fact that the country’s poverty rate continued to hover at around 30 percent,” he said. 

Marutyan also revealed that he would regularly receive calls requesting special privileges for members of the party and their family and friends. 

“Let’s put this flower bed here, give a construction permit, give permission to add more floors, expand this land and so on,” he said. “In all cases, they received the same answer. As long as I am here, everything will be done within the framework of law and legality.”

According to Marutyan, he also received phone calls from the ruling party and other officials pressuring him to fire municipality employees who had liked “bad comments or posts” on social media criticizing the government. 

“These people are trying to privatize the revolution. They are trying to make Civil Contract the only bearer and heir of revolutionary values. This is unacceptable to me,” he said. 

The Union of Informed Citizens, a nongovernmental organization, has filed official complaints to the Office of the Prosecutor-General regarding Marutyan’s allegations. Law enforcement authorities have not yet announced an official investigation.

Several members of the Yerevan city council resigned in opposition to the motion of no confidence against Marutyan. They include Civil Contract Party member Grigor Yeritsyan, who said that the municipality threatened to freeze funds for the Youth Affairs Council, which he chaired, if he did not vote for Marutyan’s removal. 

“Three years ago, when I joined the revolutionary coalition, it never would have crossed my mind that my coworkers would pressure me to leave if I did not vote against him. Either resign, or we will freeze your programs and reforms,” he said during the special sitting of the city council. 

“With ‘good old’ methods, they literally threatened to fire one member of the Council of Elders and cut funding to another,” Marutyan said during his speech regarding the alleged pressure placed on council members to vote for his removal. 

During an end-of-year press conference on December 27, Kocharyan said that the election of the new mayor “cannot be legitimate.” 

According to Kocharyan, Marutyan has gained widespread recognition in Armenia over the past year, even surpassing that of Pashinyan. In contrast, he said that he did not know anything about Sargsyan.

“We must go to elections. There is a great deficit of legitimacy from the public perspective. All explanations, political team, etc., are bluffs,” he said.

Journalist Emilio Cricchio of CivilNet said that Marutyan’s speech on December 22 had left faces “gaunt” in the municipality.

“The large public following is also further increasing speculation that he could be an actual threat to Pashinyan. A political embryo rather than a political corpse,” he wrote on Twitter.

Civic activist and head of the Union of Informed Citizens Daniel Ioannisyan said that a schism is emerging between the Civil Contract Party and supporters of the Velvet Revolution, including members of the My Step faction, who are not part of the ruling party.

“Revolutionary members of the My Step bloc who led the revolution yet did not become members of the Civil Contract Party. Hayk Marutyan has a very good relationship with them, and it seems to me that the Civil Contract Party was intimidated by the fact that there is a legacy from the revolution that is not Civil Contract,” he told Azatutyun.

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.
Lillian Avedian

@LillianAvedian

Graduate student @GloJo_NYU and @nyukevo. Staff writer @armenianweekly. Editorial intern @DAWN_Journal. She/her.
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3 Comments

  1. Imagine Biden quits the Democratic Party for a reason , can he stay as President? No. Then Maroutian should collect his Kasacusnere and disappear from politics. May be he can be azizyan again and not more.

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