Yerevan municipal elections are scheduled for May 14. Approximately 35 percent of the country's electorate reside in the capital city, however, no one is talking about the importance and significance of these elections.
While the country is gearing up for parliamentary elections in a week, everyone seems to have forgotten that on May 14, Yerevan City Council (Council of Aldermen) elections will be held. Considering that Yerevan is the capital of Armenia and the largest city, the political party that has control of City Council wields substantial influence.
During the previous Yerevan City Council elections (May 2013), the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) won 56 percent of the votes; Prosperous Armenia 23 percent and Barev Yerevan Bloc won 8 percent. The current mayor of Yerevan is RPA member Taron Margaryan, who by the way is number two on the party's national electoral list for the April 2 parliamentary election.
Some facts to put this forgotten municipal election into context.
According to the Yerevan Municipality’s official website, the capital city is Armenia’s largest financial, scientific and cultural center and a major regional transportation hub. It accounts for 42.1 percent of the country’s GDP and has 1,076,500 residents. (The second largest city, Gyumri, has approximately 100,000 residents). Yerevan has a diversified economy, from agricultural processing to Information Technologies. It accounts for 53.9 percent of the construction sector, 82.6 percent of retail trade, 85.5 percent of services, 77.6 percent of residential buildings, and 33.2 percent of the hotel industry.
Yerevan Municipality’s annual budget for 2017 is just over 185 million USD.
According to Chapter 7, Article 104 of Armenia’s Constitution, “...local self-governance has the right and power of the community to resolve on its own responsibility issues of local significance aimed at the welfare of the inhabitants in accordance with the Constitution and the law.”
Thereby, among other sectors, the administration of public schools (elementary, primary and secondary) and kindergartens, are under the direct control of local governing bodies. That means that the ten regional bodies (marzes) across Armenia, including the Yerevan municipality (which has special status) oversee and manage these institutions, thereby having tremendous sway.
There are 159 schools and 160 kindergartens in the city of Yerevan. All of these educational institutions are under the direct jurisdiction of the General Education Department of the municipality. The budget allocation for schools from the municipal budget is approximately 59,065,061 USD
In light of the recent scandal regarding school and kindergarten principals preparing lists of parents, teachers and staff pledging to vote for the ruling Republican Party at the April 2 parliamentary elections, these figures are significant.
The responsibilities of Yerevan City’s General Education Department are outlined below:
ensure fulfillment of decisions, orders, instructions, other normative acts and the requirements of documents of the mayor and the authorized public administration body for education and ensure control over implementation;
coordinate and control activities of state non-commercial education organizations subordinated to the City Hall;
provide methodological assistance to state non-commercial educational organizations subordinated to the City Hall of Yerevan, present proposals to the mayor on elimination or suspension of legal acts adopted by their administrations, which contradict legislation;
develop proposals, programs and directions of reforms for application and improvement of the legislation in the education sector;
ensure normal functioning of state non-commercial education institutions under the authority of City Hall, ensure organization of educational activities and implementation of general education programs in compliance with state education standards;
organize and implement control over maintenance, operation and rehabilitation of buildings provided for gratis use to education institutions (state non-commercial organizations) under the authority of City Hall, etc.
And this is only in the sphere of education. The Yerevan municipality is responsible for health care institutions (there are 32 medical centers that are under the direct jurisdiction of the city of Yerevan), trade, commerce, urban development, tourism, nature protection and several other cultural and athletic institutions and buildings in the capital.