Yerevan City Council elections this month will be another test of democracy in Armenia
Former President Levon Ter-Petrossian is among the candidates for mayor
Published: Tuesday May 19, 2009
The campaign focus of the Republicans and Mr. Beglarian is very local. They speak of trash collection and planting trees. The coalition members and the ARF have focused on ecological issues. They assure city residents that the construction of "elite" housing and other buildings at the expense of green zones – the bulk of which has happened under their watch – will come to an end.
For Mr. Ter-Petrossian's bloc, the election is an opportunity to move toward regime change in Armenia. If they manage to win, Armenia will effectively have a dual government, says political and economic commentator Andranik Tevanian. "If the Armenian National Congress manages to take the mayor's post, a new axis of power will form in Armenia, which will create a domestic political crisis, which will lead to the need for early parliamentary elections," he said.
The Armenian National Congress says it will win at least 40 percent of the vote. Mr. Ter-Petrossian's supporters cite past election results in Yerevan. Since 1996 opposition parties have won about 40 percent of the Yerevan vote in national elections. That fact alone is not sufficient, however, to ensure an opposition victory, since pro-government parties too have won at least 40 percent of the Yerevan vote in those same national elections.
In a mass meeting on May 15, Mr. Ter-Petrossian left no doubt that his focus is national rather than municipal. He said the president has two "ways out of the dead end situation": He could "consolidate the nation, for which it is necessary to free all political prisoners immediately, start a dialogue with the Armenian National Congress and other opposition forces, and ensure the absolute legality of the Yerevan City Council elections." Alternatively, he could "resign with dignity and leave politics – as the nightmare of the past year has showed, politics for Serge Sargsian is not responsibility but a profitable pursuit."
The May 31 election will be another test of democracy for Armenia, which has been criticized repeatedly by credible international organizations and individual countries since the February 2008 presidential election and the tragic events that followed it.
A few unpleasant incidents have already cast their shadow over these elections. On May 10, three women Armenian National Congress activists were attacked while handing out flyers in Avan for a campaign event. They were taken to hospital. One of the women had been struck in the head with a rock. The others had been struck by fists.
Activists for the Republican and Prosperous Armenia parties have had two violent clashes with each other so far. One incident was in the Kanaker-Zeitun district. The other was in the Ajapniak district, where gunshots were also heard.
Two journalists have also been attacked, including the pro-Republican Shant Television's Nver Mnatsakanian.