« back to Onnik Krikorian in Armenia home


Former president to run for Yerevan Mayor

| 5

Levon - Serge Voting 131.jpg

Following the recent announcement that the next rally to be staged by the extra-parliamentary opposition will be held just weeks before a crucial municipal election to decide the capital's mayor, it perhaps comes as no surprise that the Armenian National Congress (ANC) will contest the vote. However, news that its leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian, will head the ANC list on 31 May has startled many observers. The second candidate on the opposition list is Stepan Demirchian, himself a former presidential contender and the son of Armenia's popular Soviet-era boss.

The election will be the first time residents of Yerevan go to the polls to indirectly choose their city head. Previous presidents, including Ter-Petrossian as well as his successor, Robert Kocharian, had resisted calls for a popularly-elected official to govern the political and economic heart of the country until the constitution was finally amended by referendum in 2005. The main candidate for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia is former head of the city's Kentron district, Gagik Beglarian -- better known to most residents as "Chorni (Black) Gago."

In a written statement, the ANC noted the importance of the vote. “With this move, we are sending a very clear political message to society. We regard the election of Yerevan's mayor  as a very serious opportunity to change the existing dictatorial system and, if you like, as a second round of the 2008 presidential elections,” it read. In last year's bitterly contested election Ter-Petrossian lost to the current president, Serge Sargsyan. Nearly two weeks of street protests followed the 19 February vote which most observers consider should have gone to a run-off.

On 1 March 2008, the tense post-election standoff ended with fatal clashes that left 10 dead, hundreds wounded, and a 20-day state of emergency declared in the country. "This will be a struggle for lawfulness," commented ANC office coordinater Levon Zurabian during a press conference held today in Yerevan. "We have come to combat this tyrannical, criminal and oligarchal system to establish democracy in the country. This will not be a struggle against Beglarian. Our main rival is the regime."

With two damning reports from Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department criticizing the post-election situation in Armenia, it is unlikely that the authorities could survive any repeat of the events which followed last year's presidential vote. However, with the recent collapse of the dram exasperating existing socio-economic tensions, it cannot be ruled out. Indeed, given the potential for an elected mayor to rival the power of the presidency, many already suspect the vote will be tense and probably accompanied by vote-buying and other electoral code violations. 

This is especially true given concerns already expressed to Frontline by the head of one international organization monitoring the run-up to the election in addition to developments such as Beglarian's sudden appointment as mayor earlier this month. Meanwhile, in the hope that a united front can counter the administrative resources available to the incumbent candidate from the party of power, discussions between the ANC and the parliamentary opposition Heritage party to form an electoral bloc are reportedly underway.

Some analysts also suggest that the Republican Party might well decide to find another candidate more able to match the political clout of Ter-Petrossian, but publicly it remains as confident as ever of victory. In the meantime, with news that the first and former president is once again entering the fray, the municipal vote looks likely to be very interesting indeed. Certainly, it will represent the first real test of Armenia's fledgling democracy since last year's disputed and highly controversial presidential election. 

Photo: Levon Ter-Petrossian after voting in last year's presidential election, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2008


Onnik Krikorian | March 25, 2009 3:29 PM | Reply

My article on news that Ter-Petrossian will run for Mayor has now been published by Osservatorio Caucaso:

In English:

Levon Ter-Petrossian, the first president of independent Armenia, will participate in the municipal elections of the Armenian capital to be held on 31 May. Amid fears of election rigging, with both sides convinced of their own sweeping victory, the opposition hopes to weaken the legitimacy of president Sargsyan link

In Italian:

L'ex presidente armeno e attuale leader dell'opposizione extraparlamentare, Levon Ter-Petrossian, si candiderà sindaco di Yerevan alle prossime elezioni link

Although the article was published today it was written a few days before Heritage formerly announced it would not participate in the 31 May municipal election.

Onnik Krikorian | April 1, 2009 7:26 PM | Reply

The Jamestown Foundation now has an article on the Yerevan municipal election:

Armenia's leadership and main opposition forces are gearing up for a fresh showdown in the first local elections in Yerevan since the early 1990s to be held on May 31. The surprise decision by the top opposition leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, to run for Yerevan mayor has added a new twist to the race and represents the most serious challenge to President Serzh Sarkisian during his almost one-year rule.

[...] link

Coincidentally, they have also violated my copyright by using one of my photographs without permission or credit.

Onnik Krikorian | April 1, 2009 7:58 PM | Reply

After sending the Jamestown Foundation an email, the photo has now been replaced with another by AP which is credited. Don't you just love it when they steal an image out of choice, neglect to credit it, but rather than apologize (which they didn't) and ask permission then take another by someone else, but actually put a credit below. Go figure...

Ani | April 1, 2009 10:06 PM | Reply

A Eurasianet article that leaves much to be desired:



[...]Early polling data indicate that the ANC will gain 35 percent support in the city elections - a strong showing, but not enough to meet the opposition party’s goal of making Ter-Petrosian mayor. To be in position to do that, the ANC would have to capture an outright majority of the city vote. If the ANC falls short, it will be up to the City Council to determine who serves as mayor. Experts say it would be unlikely that Ter-Petrosian could find enough support in the council to become mayor.

Who did the polling, any ideas? And apparently they don't know about the 40% rule. If the opposition only needs to convince 5% more voters, that seems pretty hopeful, actually.

Onnik Krikorian | April 2, 2009 7:58 AM | Reply

Ani, I emailed the Eurasianet Caucasus editor yesterday regarding the 40 percent provision in law when I saw the article.

What do you think?