The “My Step” Party Alliance, with 81.06 percent of the vote, secured a landslide victory in the Yerevan municipal elections on September 23, 2018. The Prosperous Armenia Party came a distant second with 6.96 percent of the vote, followed by the “Luys” Alliance who received 4.99 percent of the vote. According to Armenia's Electoral Code, the above mentioned three forces will make up Yerevan's new Council of Elders- Proesperous Armenia Party with five mandates, "Luys" Alliance with three mandates and the "My Step" Party Alliance with 57 mandates. The mayoral candidate of the "My Step" Party Alliance, Hayk Marutyan will become the capital's new mayor.
Yerevan's new mayor, Hayk Marutyan, 42, graduated from Yerevan State Engineering University but is known to the public as an actor and producer. From 1996-2002, he worked at the “Sharm” Company as a screenwriter, director, and actor. In 2002, together with a group friends, he founded “Kargin Studio” where he now works as an actor, screenwriter, filmmaker and producer. He is known to the public from his roles in “Kargin TV Series,” “Kargin Program,” “No Comment,” “7.5,” and “Mer Baky”/”Our Yard.” Marutyan has actively participated in almost all the major protests in recent years, including the Velvet Revolution. In the summer of 2018, Marutyan joined the Civil Contract Party. He is married with four children.
The official municipal electoral campaign kicked off in Yerevan on September 10 and concluded at midnight on September 21.
Twelve political forces (eight parties and four alliances) participated in the elections, with overall 996 candidates.
The threshold for parties to get into the city council is 6 percent and 8 percent for alliances.
Below are the final results of the elction:
N 1- Prosperous Armenia Party: 25,219 votes, 6.95 %
N 2- Yerevan Community” Alliance: 2,502 votes, 0.69%
N 3- “Yerevantsi” Alliance: 2,985 votes, 0.82%
N 4- Yerkir Tsirani: 5,059 votes, 1.39%
N 5- Heritage Party: 2,709 votes, 0.75%
N 6- Democratic Way Party: 799 votes, 0.22%
N 7- “My Step” Party Alliance: 294,109 votes, 81.06%
N 8- “Luys” Alliance: 18,112 votes, 4.99%
N 9- Armenian Revolutionary Federation Party: 5,882 votes, 1.62%
N 10- Hayq Party: 692 votes, 0.19%
N 11- Reformists Party: 792 votes, 0.22%
N 12- Orinats Yerkir Party: 3,948 votes, 0.09%
The Central Electoral Commission announced that of the 848,343 eligible voters in Yerevan, 370,323 voted in the Yerevan City Council elections on Sptember 23, or 43.65%. In the previous municipal elections (May 2017), the voter turnout was 40.99%.
There are 475 precincts across Yerevan. Here is the breakdown of the voter turnout per district:
Ajapnyak: 85,192 eligible voters/38,878 voted (45%)
Avan: 39,994 eligible voters/18,593 voted (46.49%)
Arabkir: 97,932 eligible voters/42,465 voted (43.36%)
Davtashen: 32,741 eligible voters/15,361 voted (46.92%)
Erebuni: 94,069 eligible voters/37,983 voted (40.38%)
Kentron: 96,476 eligible voters/41,318 voted (42.83%)
Malatia-Sebastia: 108,804 eligible voters/45,935 voted (42.22%)
Nor Nork: 101,124 eligible voters/45,017 voted (44.52%)
Nork Marash: 10,868 eligible voters/5109 voted (47.1%)
Nubarashen: 8301 eligible voters/3767 voted (45.38%)
Shengavit: 113,850 eligible voters/50,644 voted (44.48%)
Kanaker-Zeitun: 58,992 eligible voters/25,253 voted (42.21%)
Speaking of the the violations that were recorded during the vote, Shushanik Israelyan, the representative of the Prosecutor General's office said that most of the cases were not of a serious nature, but that all complaints were being investigated.
The Prosecutor General’s office has looked at 55 reports in the media of electoral violations; received three complaints to their hotline and the police received 71 complaints for a total of 129 cases. Of those, 14 were about hindering the right of a citizen’s freedom to vote; nine cases had to do with voter bribes; three complaints were filed regarding campaigning near a polling station; 30 were about issues with the voters’ list; 21 about double voting (these were a result of technical issues with the voting machines, according to Israelyan); 19 cases of disrupting the secrecy of the vote; and 33 other cases, which the representative of the Prosecutor General did not specify.
Of these cases, 98 do not have concrete evidence, and are rather vague complaints, but an investigation will be carried out by the police nonetheless. And in 31 of the cases, police are currently gathering evidence under articles 180 and 181 of the Criminal Code. Israelyan noted that overall, most of the cases are not serious violations and did not contain malicious intent.
Following the Velvet Revolution, which led to the resignation of Armenia’s Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan on April 23, there had been numerous calls for the resignation of Yerevan Mayor, Taron Margaryan as well. It was under public pressure that on July 9, without giving any specific reasons, Margaryan, a member of the Republican Party resigned after holding the post of mayor since 2011. The election of a new mayor failed after city council was not able to secure a quorum on July 16; the Republican Party and Yelk Bloc members did not show up for the vote, effectively paving the way for pre-term local elections
According to the law, after the Yerevan City Council failed to elect a new mayor within two weeks following the resignation of the incumbent mayor, the Armenian government dissolved the council and set up snap elections.
The Republican Party of Armenia decided against running in the 2018 municipal elections.
* Days before the elections, former Yerevan Mayor, Taron Margaryan was called into questioning by the country’s National Security Service regarding the Yerevan Foundation and misuse of funds. According to a statement by the NSS, 1.8 billion AMD (approximately 3.76 million USD) will be returned back to the state budget. Margaryan has admitted to several violations, and that part of the funds were misappropriated by him.
Article 52 of the same law gives a general description of the responsibilities that the elected mayor has. Some of the important ones include:
- organize the work of the Council, implement the decisions of the Council, and carry out the general management of the City Hall staff;
- within his/her jurisdiction take measures to protect the rights and freedoms of residents;
- appoint and dismiss the Secretary of the City Hall staff, heads of structural and separate subdivisions in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law;
- appoint and dismiss the heads of the administrative districts, supervise their activities to make sure that they properly exercise their powers;
- appoint and dismiss the heads of city organizations, determine the structure and number of employees of the subordinate organizations;
- provide annual reports to the public about the Council’s an well as his/her activities and the overall socio-economic situation in Yerevan (the reports are posted on the official website of Yerevan);
- resolve the issue of holding rallies in Yerevan in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law;
- delegate some of mayor’s powers to heads of administrative districts to effectively implement local self-governance in Yerevan (except for powers exercised in relations with the Council of Elders), etc.
The Human Rights Defender’s office of Armenia received 46 complaints regarding the September 23, 2018 Yerevan City Hall elections. The Ombudsman's office stated that 16 of the complaints were regarding voting for non-citizens and 12 were regarding accessibility for voters with disabilities. There were also complaints regarding difficulties for voters with Identification Cards, lack of information pamphlets, etc.
The Ombudsman’s office also responded to a complaint stating that a citizen was apprehended on the evening of September 22 under the suspicion of offering bribes and has been kept in detention overnight.
The Ombudsman's office has also monitored more than 1000 news publications and social media posts and registered that most violations are regarding voter confidentiality (instances of photographing and publishing of ballots), grouping of people near precincts and accompanying voters to the voting booth.
The Law "On local self-government in the city of Yerevan," states that the Council of Elders is elected by the procedure determined by the RA Electoral Code. Some of the most important responsibilities of the council include:
- elect the Mayor in cases and by the order prescribed by law "On local self-government in the city of Yerevan";
- take a decision on a vote of no confidence to the Mayor;
- decide the salary of the Mayor, his deputies, the staff of the Municipality, the heads of administrative districts, their deputies, and the staff members of administrative districts;
- decide the regulations, structure, and staff of the Municipality and the administrative districts in accordance with the Mayor’s presentation;
- take a decision on one or four-year programs of Yerevan development, long-term and special programs, securing of loans;
- set control over the budget implementation, is empowered to take decisions on the details of the purposeful use of the budget, to liquidate decisions of the Mayor taken on management of the budget means, to discuss and make decision on the annual report of the Mayor on the budget implementation;
- make decisions on the names of streets, avenues, squares, parks of Yerevan, educational, cultural and other organizations subordinated to Yerevan;
- take decisions on annual program of allocation and eminent domain of Yerevan-owned property (including participation in authorized capital stock of land or legal entity), on their fees and alienation prices and conditions; and in case of a public auction on starting prices; on the draft of the General Plan of Yerevan; on the drafts of zoning of separate areas of Yerevan in accordance with the General Plan of the city;
- determine the areas for urban development (in the form of maps), the streets, squares, gardens, as well as the conditions under which the urban development activities are implemented beyond the urban development areas but are of urban significance;
- take decisions on urban development regulations of Yerevan;
- by the Mayor’s suggestion take decision on awarding the title of the Honorary Citizen of Yerevan to the citizens of the RA or other countries, etc.
On September 22, the police searched the headquarters of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) in the Ajapnyak district of Yerevan, after receiving information that the party is offering electoral bribes.
The BHK called the operation political persecution, an attempt to discredit the party hours before the municipal elections. Naira Zurabyan, the party’s Mayoral candidate called on Armenia's Chief of Police, Valeri Osipyan to investigate the matter and disclose the informant. Making false accusations is punishable by RA law said Zurabyan, who is also a member of parliament.
In a video message from the scene, several members of the Tsarukyan parliamentary alliance said they rushed to the headquarters to prevent any police action. Gevorg Petrosyan said the presence of over 80 police and other law enforcement agency officers at their campaign headquarters for hours on end is an attempt to divert their attention from their duties as parliament members ahead of the elections.
This was not the only incident regarding BHK from September 22. During a press conference called by the “Independent Observer” initiative to present the results of their election campaign monitoring, several heated arguments broke out between the speakers and members of BHK after Daniel Ioannisyan from the Union of Informed Citizens announced that they have evidence that the BHK has paid people to participate in their rallies. Vahe Enfiejyan, a parliament member from the Tsarukyan Alliance interrupted the conference, saying it was spreading misinformation. Enfiejyan also said that the press conference itself should not have been called on the 22nd, on the “day of silence” which is the 24 hour prior the date of Election Day when no campaigning is allowed. Enfiejyan insisted that by discrediting his party the organization is automatically campaigning in favor of the “My Step” initiative.
There have been a number of official complaints regarding election bribes; three criminal cases have been filed. The police will not officially disclose which political force has offered the bribe. The latest case disclosed on September 22, according to which two residents of the Charbakh district of Yerevan were offered a deal- to cover half of the 150 thousand water bill they owed in return for their votes.