Yerevan Votes 2013: Opposition still mulling cooperation as city race enters second week of campaigning

Campaigning in the May 5 elections to Yerevan’s Council of Elders has entered its second week, with the political forces participating in the race likely to step up their efforts after the first week of electioneering eclipsed by the presidential inauguration and related opposition protests.

Now all forces opposed to the current governing coalition acknowledge that they failed to field a single candidate before the start of the campaign, but they still hope to achieve cooperation on Election Day and in the new municipality after the polls to ensure they can install a mayor other than a ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) member.

Six political parties and one bloc are taking part in the elections. These are: the RPA, the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), Orinats Yerkir, Arakelutyun, the Armenian National Congress (ANC), Dashnaktsutyun and Hello Yerevan (a bloc of several parties dominated by opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian’s Heritage).

Under the law on the elections to Yerevan’s Council of Elders the party or bloc that polls more than 40 percent of the vote will automatically see its top candidate elected as mayor of the capital. If no force can manage to poll that number of votes, the 65-member municipal body shall cast a ballot to elect the new mayor. It means that if the parties that are opposed to the ruling coalition of the RPA and Orinats Yerkir poll more than half of the vote together, they will be in a position to decide who to choose as the new mayor. Then, a single candidate from the opposition is, indeed, possible.

Barev Yerevan, the ANC and Dashnaktsutyun set themselves the task of first of all preventing election fraud, and, secondly, to prevent the RPA from gaining an outright victory. This is what the leaders of these forces have publicly stated. Heritage’s Hovannisian, the ANC’s Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Dashnaktsutyun’s Armen Rustamyan have described the elections to the Council of Elders as a good chance to break the monolithic power of the RPA, as have PAP leaders.

Before the elections an opposition alliance apparently failed because of the disagreement of Heritage with the suggested single candidate. It was not clearly stated who that candidate was, but it looks like PAP’s Vartan Oskanian could have been a plausible candidate. He was backed by Dashnaktsutyun as well as the ANC, whose leader Ter-Petrosyan devoted much of his speech at the party’s founding congress last weekend to praising PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan. It is with the help of this tycoon that Ter-Petrosyan apparently hopes to break the political monopoly of President Serzh Sargsyan and his ruling coalition.

Heritage, meanwhile, had suggested ex-MP from Dashnaktsutyun Lilit Galstyan as a single candidate, but Dashnaktsutyun rejected that offer. While Heritage, apparently, did not want to endorse Oskanian, after the elections it may turn out that the former foreign minister’s candidacy will be acceptable to all opposition groups if they see a chance of forming a majority.

Meanwhile, the National Security Service continues to investigate the case against Oskanian on charges of money laundering involving his Civilitas Foundation. No major news related to the case has been reported yet, but the case may become more active against the backdrop of possible chances of Oskanian for becoming a joint candidate from the opposition after the elections.