The FINANCIAL — YEREVAN — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s bloc has scored a landslide victory in municipal elections in the capital, Yerevan, in the first major test of the new leader’s political strength, according to final preliminary results.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) said on September 24 that Pashinian’s My Step bloc garnered 81 percent of the votes, far more than enough to have its top candidate, popular actor and producer Hayk Marutian, installed as mayor of the Armenian capital, according to RFE/RL.
Businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) came in a distant second with 7 percent, followed by the Luys alliance, which got 5 percent. Both groups have ministerial posts in Pashinian’s cabinet.
The nine other contenders in the September 23 vote, including the parliamentary Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), fared much worse.
Under Armenian law, alliances need to win at least 8 percent of the vote to be represented in the city council. But the law also stipulates that at least three political groups must be represented in the council, meaning that Luys will also hold seats there.
The CEC put voter turnout at about 43.7 percent, up from the almost 41 percent that was recorded in the previous municipal elections in May 2017, controversially won by the former ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The party, which lost power in May, chose not to contest the latest mayoral race.An opposition lawmaker, Pashinian became prime minister in May after leading a wave of antigovernment protests. He still faces a parliament that consists mainly of members of the HHK.
Pashinian actively participated in the local election campaign, portraying the vote in Yerevan, where nearly half of the country’s population lives, as a referendum on his political future. He said he needed a “strong mandate” to push for the holding of snap parliamentary elections in Armenia in the coming months.
Citing the election outcome, a close Pashinian associate, First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, said that the premier has received such a mandate. Mirzoyan declined to speculate about possible election dates.
Pashinian, whose popularity is based on his anticorruption and economic reform stance, twice called for a high turnout during voting.
Pashinian made the same appeal late in the afternoon amid signs that Yerevan voters were not turning out in large numbers. He suggested that the turnout was relatively low because voters are no longer bribed and bused to polling stations by any party.
Pashinian also sounded satisfied with the authorities’ conduct of the elections, saying he hopes they will be “exemplary.”
The vote was marked by an unusually small number of irregularities or violent incidents reported by election contenders, local monitors, and media.
Armenia’s Investigative Committee said law enforcement authorities received 25 complaints about alleged violations such as attempts at multiple voting. It pledged to investigate all of them.
Armenia’s opposition has for years complained that elections were rigged to favor the ruling party.