In an interview with Armenia’s Public TV, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has criticised Hayk Marutyan, a former mayor of Yerevan seeking to topple the ruling party in the city’s upcoming municipal elections and called for Armenians to vote for his party.
On Monday night, Pashinyan was a guest on Public TV’s Interview with Petros Ghazaryan. He spoke about the situation on the Armenia–Azerbaijan border, the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, and relations with Moscow.
However, the second half of the interview was dedicated to the upcoming Yerevan municipal elections, in which the ruling Civil Contract party is set to face off against Hayk Marutyan — former mayor of Yerevan, comedian, and erstwhile ally of Pashinyan’s.
Marutyan was ousted from office in December 2021 for allegedly not being loyal to the ruling party. Marutyan is set to compete 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, amongst others.
The elections taking place on 17 September are expected to be highly competitive and indicative of the public’s attitude towards the ruling party and Pashinyan’s government.
During the interview, Ghazaryan asked Pashinyan about statements made by Marutyan in his solo comedy show, The Mayor, in which the former mayor accused the prime minister of ‘straying from the revolutionary path’.
‘It is a strange claim and a strange statement for me, because I have never heard from Hayk Marutyan that we deviated from the path of the revolution’, said Pashinyan. ‘Hayk Marutyan appeared on the stage after leaving the post of mayor of Yerevan and, as far as I know, made that kind of statements from there’.
Marutyan’s show premiered in September 2022, the recording of which was released online a few days before his campaign for the Yerevan City Council elections kicked off in late August.
‘I think this is the first time in Hayk Marutyan's career that he makes political humour without seeking approval from the people he’s based his characters on. This fact itself proves that Armenia has not deviated from the path of revolutionary values’ said Pashinyan.
Pashinyan also stated that Marutyan only became a mayoral candidate due to his support.
Pashinyan elaborated on this issue, saying that back then their team faced no problem and ‘Marutyan did everything to be close, get even closer, sometimes closer than the political team’, said Pashinyan.
‘It turned out that at the first sign of trouble, Hayk Marutyan wrote an application to leave the party with the same ease as he wrote an application to become a member of the party’.
Pashinyan claimed that other members of the party had warned him that Marutyan was only coming on board as a ‘guest player’ and that he would abandon Civil Contract.
The prime minister also denied media reports about violations Civil Contract had allegedly committed during their pre-election campaign, including the hiring of young women to campaign for the party and abusing administrative resources.
‘[This] contradicts the essence and value system of Civil Contract’, said Pashinyan.
Pashinyan urged viewers to attend a planned Civil Contract rally in Yerevan on 15 September — two days before the elections take place. He said that he will deliver an ‘extensive speech’ and call on people to vote for his party.
Closing off the interview, Ghazaryan asked the prime minister whether he was worried about being accused of ‘spreading propaganda’ while on the job, to which Pashinyan replied that he was not breaking any laws as it was past working hours.
Marutyan has yet to comment on Pashinyan’s statements.