fbpx

Recriminations fly as Yerevan mayor replaced by city hall 

22 December 2021
Hayk Marutyan during his last city hall session as mayor. Still from video.

For the first time since Armenia’s independence, the mayor of Yerevan has been removed by a vote of non-confidence by the city council.  Hayk Marutyan, once a close ally of Pashinyan, served as mayor of the Armenian capital since 2018.  

With 44 for and 10 votes against, former Deputy Mayor of Yerevan Hrachya Sargsyan was elected to replace Marutyan as mayor. 

In his last speech as mayor, Hayk Marutyan harshly criticised Armenia’s post-revolutionary government, accusing officials of asking him to fire city workers who ‘had written a “bad” [Facebook] comment, or “liked” a bad post’, as well as requesting special privileges for themselves, their friends, and their relatives. 

‘Let's put this flower bed here, give a construction permit, give permission to add more floors [to a building], expand this land and so on’, the former mayor said, listing the requests he had allegedly received.

‘In all cases, they received the same answer. As long as I am here, everything will be done within the framework of law and legality.’ 

In a 16 December Facebook post on its official page, Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract party, which holds a majority of seats on the Yerevan city council, justified the ouster of the mayor by citing his exit from the party, non-adherence to the party’s municipal electoral programme, and of not fulfilling the ‘mission’ to ‘eliminate systemic corruption from the Yerevan municipality’.

Marutyan said he left the party because the apparent abuse of power he witnessed among officials was not befitting of a ‘revolutionary’ city administration. 

‘These people are trying to privatise the revolution, they are trying to make Civil Contract the only bearer and heir of revolutionary values. This is unacceptable to me’, he said.

According to the former mayor, he left the party in December 2020.  

Grigor Yeritsyan and Gayane Vardanyan, both members of the Civil Contract-led My Step faction in Yerevan City Hall, resigned from their posts in protest of Marutyan’s removal. 

[ Read more: Ruling party to oust 'disloyal' Yerevan mayor]

Another My Step city councillor, Vahe Gevorgyan, condemned Marutyan’s removal as illegitimate because of recent claims that some city council members were pressured to vote for the mayor’s removal. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the city hall, Grigor Yeritsyan said that Galjyan threatened to freeze funds for the Youth Affairs Council, which was chaired by Yeritsyan, if he did not vote for the Mayor’s removal. 

The Union of Informed Citizens NGO, a local democracy watchdog, has filed official complaints to law enforcement bodies about  Marutyan’s allegations about apparently illegal behaviour among government officials as well as the allegations of pressure on city councillors. 

While city councillors from the Luys faction — connected with Armenia’s liberal opposition Bright Armenia party — did not support the move to remove Marutyan, they nevertheless voiced criticism of the former mayor’s tenure and said that he had failed to implement crucial reforms. 

‘Hayk Marutyan entered the Civil Contract party opportunistically and left the party in the same way after the [Second Nagorno-Karabakh] war’, Davit Khajakyan, a Luys city councillor, said. 

Some political observers have noted that Hayk Marutyan may emerge as an important political player among the opposition since his exit from the mayor’s office. 

‘[Marutyan’s] large public following is also further increasing speculation that he could be an actual threat to Pashinyan’, Civilnet journalist Emilio Cricchio wrote on Twitter. 

Daniel Ioannisyan, project coordinator for the Union of Informed Citizens, told OC Media that Marutyan’s ouster was the result of a splintering and confrontation between a ‘Civil Contract team’ and a broader ‘revolutionary team’, which despite being a former Civil Contract member, Marutyan represents. 

Fierce, independent journalism

Let’s be honest, the media situation in the Caucasus is grim. Every day we are accused of ‘serving the enemy’ whoever that enemy may be. Our journalists have been harassed, arrested, beaten, and exiled. But nevertheless, we persevere. For us this is a labour of love. Unfortunately, we cannot run OC Media on love alone, journalism is expensive and funding is scarce. Our sole mission is to serve the interests of all peoples of the region. You can support us today for as little as $1 a month and join us in the fight for a better Caucasus.

Support Us