Yerevan’s ex-mayor Hayk Marutyan has officially announced his intent to run for mayor again in the September City Council elections. He was ousted in December 2021 for ‘disloyalty’ to the ruling party.
Marutyan announced his election bid in a video published on his Facebook page on Tuesday.
‘There cannot be personal happiness when your community and the country are unhappy’, Marutyan said in his announcement video, questioning the governance and the transparency of the Yerevan Municipality.
Marutyan, an erstwhile ally of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, said that the government had failed to achieve any of the goals it set during the 2018 revolution.
The Civil Contract-controlled City Council passed a vote of no confidence in him in December 2021, removing him as mayor.
Closing off his announcement, Marutyan urged the residents of the capital not to ‘allow random people to decide the fate of Yerevan’.
In order to be reelected mayor, Marutyan would have to secure the votes of a majority on the City Council. RFE/RL cited a member of his team as saying he would lead the list of the opposition National Progress Party in the council elections, a party founded by a group of activists in 2018.
Marutyan, originally a writer and comedian, came to power as mayor of Yerevan after the 2018 Velvet revolution, securing a landslide victory in the municipal elections of that year with 81% of the votes.
While Marutyan enjoyed popularity amongst his constituents, the former mayor often found himself at odds with the ruling Civil Contract party. Marutyan has claimed that members of the party had requested ‘illegal construction permits’, which he turned down.
Marutyan formally left the ruling party before his ouster, citing an ‘abuse of power’ by his fellow party members.
While Civil Contract denies Marutyan’s allegations, some of its members confirmed that the party and Marutyan were at odds.
Marutyan also accused the ruling party of attempting to ‘privatise’ the revolution, adding that the people had ‘voted for the revolution, not for the [Civil Contract] party’ in 2018.
In response, the ruling party accused Marutyan of ‘non-adherence to the party’s municipal electoral programme and of not fulfilling the “mission” to “eliminate systemic corruption in Yerevan” ’.
[Read more: Ruling party to oust ‘disloyal’ Yerevan mayor]
After his removal, Marutyan returned to the stage with a solo comedy show titled The Mayor, based on his tenure as mayor of Yerevan.
Before the show premiered in September 2022, Armenia’s Anti-Corruption Committee announced that it was investigating allegedly illegal construction permits handed out during Marutyan’s tenure as mayor. No further updates have been made since.
Marutyan was immediately succeeded by Hrachya Sargsyan, who in March stepped down from his post in preparation for the upcoming mayoral elections.
Tigran Avinyan, a close ally of Pashinyan’s and a former deputy prime minister, is currently Yerevan’s interim mayor.
The race to City Hall
With a population of over one million people — nearly half of Armenia’s population — Yerevan’s upcoming municipal elections on 17 September are expected to be highly competitive and indicative of the public’s attitude towards the ruling party and Pashinyan’s government.
The municipal elections in Yerevan are also expected to be the biggest elections Armenia has seen since the parliamentary elections of June 2021, which saw the ruling Civil Contract party facing off with the Armenia Alliance — a block formed around former president Robert Khocharyan.
Commentators have speculated that Marutyan could pose a real challenge to the ruling party amidst Pashinyan’s shrinking reputation, with some even arguing he was initially ousted because he was seen as a ‘threat’ to Civil Contract.
‘If the ruling party wins, they will continue centralising power in Armenia. If Marutyan wins, it will be a huge blow to Pashinyan and a big win for democracy in Armenia’, Tigran Grigoryan, the head of Regional Center for Democracy and Security, wrote on Twitter.
This is an extremely important decision. Finally, we have a genuine pro-democratic contender challenging Pashinyan and his party. The mayoral elections won't be just about Yerevan; they will shape the future trajectory of the entire country. https://t.co/eDS2ZdOHPT
— Tigran Grigoryan (@Tigartsakh) August 8, 2023
Marutyan is set to face off with interim mayor Tigran Avinyan from Civil Contract, Mane Tandilyan, the chair of the Country of Living party, and Davit Khazhakyan from the Bright Armenia party.