Yerevan Vote 2013: Race for Mayor seen as referendum on influence of opposition

The oppositional forces of Armenia’s political field, having failed to unite over a single list for the participation in the forthcoming municipal elections in Yerevan, say they will unite and fight the pro-establishment forces to prevent potential election fraud.

“We were very happy that three political forces – the Prosperous Armenian Party (PAP), Heritage and Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) held negotiations on this issue, because no matter what results it would have yielded we wouldn’t make ambitious claims and would simply join the reconciled agreement. But, even if the single list did not work out, we still have to wage a battle against the authorities,” says Armenian National Congress faction leader Levon Zurabyan.

Expert in political and electoral technologies Armen Badalyan says the opposition’s participation in Yerevan city council elections with separate lists is, actually, good.

“They should be aware of one thing – voters would not simply give their support to the opposition list, voting works by a completely different principle: people want to know whether this or that party would help them have the kind of lifestyle they have in mind, before casting their ballots for it,” Badalyan told ArmeniaNow. “These elections differ from the preceding ones by the fact that the results are not predetermined and any political force that will be able to promise that kind of lifestyle would be able to get more votes.”

ARF parliament faction secretary Aghvan Vardanyan, reflecting on the failed single list, says this might be for the better, because now each has to make extra efforts to gain support.

“People should elect political forces, rather than top position-holders on proportionate lists, and the authorities have kept changing mayors over the past four years. Consequently, for the RPA the Yerevan mayor’s post is not election-based, rather authority-appointed,” says Vardanyan.

PAP faction secretary Naira Zohrabyan says cooperation among various political forces failed for different reasons, not ruling out the possibility an alliance with the non pro-establishment forces after the municipal election.

“Nothing can be ruled out. Of course, we would like it if a broader front were formed for participation in the city council election. It didn’t for a number of reasons, however, why not? Cooperation should not be ruled out during the campaign and in the post-election period,” she says.

The oppositional forces are largely skeptical of Gallup International Association Armenian office’s “Yerevan Residents on Yerevan” survey results, by which 60 percent of the surveyed 1,066 residents see Taron Margaryan as their mayor.

Heritage party vice-chairman Armen Martirosyan, leading Barev Yerevan (Hello Yerevan) alliance in the municipal elections, says the survey was conducted “very poorly” and adds with mockery that “it should have been 90 percent”. In February the same surveys were showing 10 percent support of Raffi Hovannisian (prior to the presidential run; Hovannisian officially earned almost 37 percent), hence it would be immature to interpret those now.

“We are in favor of substantial steps. If we see there is a genuine willingness to get real work done, then after the elections we may unite with oppositional forces. Our alliance would make the majority, and the cooperation field is open for ARF, PAP and ANC,” he says.

RPA spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov stated that RPA is in favor of competitive struggle and will go for victory, Yerevan’s prosperity and beautification, prospects of its development, and that their man for the job is current mayor Taron Margaryan.

Heritage party member Styopa Safaryan says Yerevan municipal elections should not be underestimated. If they are ignored, the cities and towns will one-by-one be taken over by ballot-riggers. Before, local government elections were ignored, which made fraudulent election mechanisms even stronger, as well as led to governors’ all-permissiveness and anarchy; some communities have even become private feudal manors.