The Yerevan municipal elections are just around the corner, to be held on May 31. And the main political parties are all vying for the majority of votes.
Yerevan citizens will be voting for the mayoral candidate indirectly, a first-time event in Armenia’s brief history. They will instead vote for a political party, each of which is hoping to control the majority of the 65 seats of the Yerevan municipal assembly. To have representation in the assembly, a party needs to earn seven percent of counted votes. The party that wins 40 percent or more of the total votes can appoint its candidate as mayor.
Here’s a list of the top candidates:
Gagik Beglarian: The incumbent represents the powerful Republican party. He was appointed mayor only several weeks ago. During the last few weeks he has been trying to woo voters by taking on several civil projects like landscaping and planting flower gardens in green spaces. Lines are also being painted for lane dividers and crosswalks on main streets (which tend to fade after a few days). He’s also vowed to cease illegal, inappropriate construction throughout the city–I noticed that a recent plan to allow yet another cafe to be built in the vicinity of the Opera along the south end of the pond there has apparently been rejected, as no signs of construction are noticeable. While such projects have been undergoing, police presence in public places has been ever increasing, which undoubtedly is not appreciated by Yerevan residents or tourists for that matter.
Levon Ter-Petrossian: The former Armenian president and leader of the Armenian National Congress opposition bloc is vying to take control of what may considered to be the second most important political position in Armenia, the Yerevan mayorship. Ter-Petrossian still aims to enact change in the political landscape, if not on a presidential level, at least on a smaller playing field.
Heghine Bisharian: Bisharian is the Orinats Yerkir candidate and the only female running for office. She has made statements before the press about beautifying Yerevan should she be elected mayor, but I’m not too sure about what else she means to accomplish.
Harutiun Kushkian: This candidate is the Minister of Health and a member of Prosperous Armenia. The party, lead by big businessman Gagik Tsarukian, has been clashing recently with the Republicans in the pre-election drama to gain the most municipal seats and, of course, secure the mayorship.
Artsvik Minasian: Minasian is the candidate representing the ARF-Dasknaktsutiun. This party only a month ago declared that it was going to become an opposition party, while being “constructive.” All of its members have resigned from their governmental posts. The ARF-Dasknaktsutiun is hoping it can perform well in the elections anticipating to realize the goals of its party platform.
Concern has already been expressed by political parties that the elections may be fraudulent. There’s rumors being spread that people have been offered as much as 20,000 dram to cast a ballot in a particular party’s favor. Armenia is under huge pressure, especially from the US and PACE, to make sure its municipal elections are free and fair.
What will come of these elections for Yerevan’s citizens? Do the candidates really want to change the way things have been run in the nation’s capital, such as ceaseless illegal construction and a lack of accountability for failed civil projects? Perhaps these elections all about show and no substance. Then there’s the issue of whether the elections will indeed be legitimate.
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