Tag Archives: Yerevan mayor

Waiting for Sarkisian to do the right thing

Serge Sarkisian, left, and Surik Khachatryan (Photolur photo)
Serge Sarkisian, left, and Surik Khachatryan (Photolur photo)

One week has passed since the assault accusations against Syunik governor Surik Khachatryan were revealed to the public. On Monday, November 14, while leaving the Marriott Hotel in Yerevan Silva Hambardzumian, a businesswoman, was allegedly hit on the head by Khachatryan, who later denied any wrongdoing. Naturally, no one working at the hotel saw anything, not even the doorman apparently. The parliamentarian Khachik Manukian who happened to be there and purportedly witnessed everything according to Hambardzumian later said that he had arrived on the scene just moments after the incident of violence took place. Now the Special Investigative Service (SIS) is looking into the matter, although its unlikely it will hold Khachatryan accountable.

The issue stems from an allegation made by Hambardzumian that equipment worth 100 million dram had essentially been stolen from her mine then found its way to a different mine owned by Khachatryan, and she passed blame on him, who besides being a regional governor is a feared thug (and, according to former defense minister Vasken Manukian, an “uneducated criminal”).

Khachatryan is no stranger to controversy. He is believed to have embezzled about $1.5 million in state funds in 2008, as determined by the Audit Chamber of the National Assembly, and got away with it.

Apparently Khachatryan is well connected to President Serge Sarkisian and has even been described as his “protégé.” He apparently ran an election campaign for the president’s brother Alexander in 2007. His relations with former president Robert Kocharian are also excellent. For these reasons alone, there is a very good chance that he will not face prosecution and walk away scot-free.

Not unless, of course, the president wants to add to the credibility of his legitimacy. President Sarkisian has been cleaning house lately, forcing several high-level officials to resign. In the last month both the Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetyan and National Assembly president Hovik “Moog” Abrahamyan stepped down (the press insists they left their posts because of their ties to Robert Kocharian, who supposedly wants to run for president in 2013). A year ago Sarkisian fired then mayor Gagik Beglaryan for slapping around one of his assistants. The president not only has to give the impression that he is not tolerating any nonsense from any of his officials, he also has to show the world that governmental corruption or ethical misconduct cannot be tolerated on any level.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian claimed that the authorities are waiting for a final determination from SIS before action is taken against Khachatryan. But the right thing for the president to do would be to replace the governor. The accusation of assault in a public setting is reason enough to fire him.

The position of regional governor should be an honor to hold. But for Khachatryan, his post is nothing more but a conduit to do unchecked business and even get away with misappropriating state funds. President Sarkisian, do the Armenian citizenry good service by promptly sacking Khachatryan and make sure that his replacement will actually respect his governing role. Armenia certainly doesn’t need another mafia boss in a position of power.

Yerevan Vendors Unite to Protest Ban

market2Yesterday while driving past Yerevan City Hall my wife and I couldn’t help but notice a couple hundred or more people in front of the main entrance.  Some were holding placards reading slogans like “Mayor Keep Away.” We didn’t know what was going on at first until we went online later in the afternoon

Turns out according to a News.am article that it was in response to a recent ban imposed on independent fruit and vegetable vendors operating on the sidewalks of Yerevan. In other words, anyone selling things from lemons to mixed greens to apples and persimmons in small neighborhoods — even in courtyards — are no longer allowed to do business. These vendors from what I’ve seen are mostly middle aged and they’re doing what they can to make a buck. Some come to Yerevan from far away places, like Gavar on Lake Sevan, to sell produce, while others are from around the block. Not everyone can afford to sell in the open marketplaces, probably because they can’t afford the rent, so they set up shop on the sidewalk, but never allowing their merchandise to impede foot traffic.

Throughout the year City Hall cracks down once in a while on these people, who are what you might call assiduously modest entrepreneurs. They mark up their stock by 50 dram, and on a good day they’re lucky to make 4,000 or 5,000 dram, or around $11-13. I know this because I’ve spoken to them. They are just trying to get by the only way they can while being in business for themselves. It’s true, they pay no rent, and I don’t know how many are actually paying taxes. But they’re not the ones City Hall or the Armenian government for that matter should be going after.

The vendors themselves are for the most part decent people, and they pick up after themselves after they’re done for the day, at least from what I’ve seen, so I don’t understand the arguement that their trading is “dangerous” as the municipality claims.

This ban actually applies to anyone selling anything on the sidewalk. Near the Komidas market for instance you could find people selling cellophane bags, combs, or incense just to make a buck.

Based on the recent actions of the new Yerevan mayor  Karen Karapetian, it is obvious that he has no idea how the other half lives or even wants to know. Karapetian, the former head of ArmRosGazprom who was hand-picked for the job by President Serge Sarkisian, seems to be mired in the ways of the elite. If he had any comprehension of how ordinary people are trying to make an honest living, he would never have imposed such a heartless, ill-conceived ban just after taking office.

You can read more about the situation on RFE/RL.

Yerevan’s Mayor Beglaryan Resigns over Scandal

Yesterday, the mayor of Yerevan, Gagik Beglaryan, also known by Yerevan residents as “Black Gago,” resigned as a result of a scandal involving the beating of one of President Serge Sarkisian’s aids.

Apparently, Beglaryan — who became mayor in 2009 — became enraged when his wife complained to him about not being allowed to sit next to the president at the Placido Domingo concert held in Yerevan last Friday. Aram Kandayan, who is an official presidential aid, had asked her to move to another seat, since only the Prime Minister, the Catholicos of All Armenians or other specified dignitaries are allowed to sit beside him. We know that Kandayan was certainly beaten by Beglaryan, but the circumstances related to how and where the beating took place are not definite.

RFE/RL reported that:

Beglarian, who did not attend the concert, allegedly drove Kandayan to one of his properties in Yerevan and beat up the young official there the next day. Reports claimed that Sarkisian was infuriated by the incident and demanded an official apology from the mayor.
“Unfortunately, an incident did take place,” the presidential press secretary, Armen Arzumanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But the media have exaggerated it. In particular, there was no kidnapping or brutal beating.”

Yeah, right, of course there wasn’t.

According to Zhamanak newspaper, apparently the general prosecutor’s office is about to open an investigation into the events surrounding Kandayan’s beating. The newspaper also does not rule out that Beglaryan could either be kicked out of the Republican party or else receive a stern reprimand.

The Armenian Observer was one of the first to break the story about Beglarayn. Hetq Online also wrote about the incident. I am sure more juicy tidbits about this story will surface in the hours and days to come.

There’s already rumors circulating about the “real reason” why Beglaryan was forced to step down from his post, which aren’t really worth mentioning.  But one thing is obvious — the ruling authorities are making it clear that nonsense from anyone in a position of power cannot go on unheeded. The mayor of Yerevan must not be allowed to beat people up like a common thug hanging out on the street corner, playing out a scene from the film “Goodfellas.” He made himself look ridiculous, and the president would have been made to look like a total fool if he let Beglaryan keep his job. The president had no choice but to sack him. Obviously, he did the right thing. It’s time to appoint someone with at least some intellectual capacity, not to mention proper manners and self-control to lead this city. There is speculation that Daron Markaryan, son of the late prime minister Antranik Markaryan, may become Beglaryan’s successor.

Let me know what you think in the comments section.