Yerevan City Council Elections of 2009-2018 The Campaign Principles13 m. | 2019-01-16
Article 11 of the RA on “Local Self Governance in the city of Yerevan” states: “Yerevan City Council is the supreme local self-governing body, of which the mayor comes under its jurisdiction. The Council is independent and acts only in the interests of the city of Yerevan and on its behalf when implementing powers”.
The Council Election of 2009
Y erevan Council and Mayor’s elections took place on May 31, 2009 with a proportional electoral system. In 1955, Yerevan was granted the status of a region with a new administrative territorial division, and the mayor was appointed by the President of the Republic of Armenia (Yerevan had a community status after the constitutional changes of 2005).
The proportional electoral system of Yerevan Council and elections of the Mayor did not pass any changes after 2009. According to the classic interpretation of the proportional electoral system, it gives an opportunity of political pluralism and party system development. Accordingly, the Council of Yerevan could become an alternative platform for political powers in parallel with the National Assembly.
At the same time, the proportional electoral system supposes, that the competition and political struggle could mainly be spread over the programs of various political powers, city governance concepts, ideological principles and not over the leading person of the political power’s voter-list. There was no real difference of ideology in the Council Election Campaign of 2009: they stressed political environment, appearance, problems of infrastructures, and were trying to depoliticize Yerevan City Council Elections.
The opposition forces ARF and ANC were expressing some political tone in their campaign. On April 2009, after the signing of the Armenian-Turkish Zurich protocols, ARF left the coalition of PRA-PAP–ARF-PCL formed on March 21, 2008. The newly formed ANC after the presidential elections of 2008 was trying to materialize the oppositional political factions, under public dissatisfaction which formed after the tragic events of March 1. ANC was trying to convey a political message to Yerevan Council election. This tendency was also expressed by the ANC slogan: “Let’s change Armenia, let’s start from Yerevan”. In other words, the Council election of the capital city was perceived as a start of a nationwide scale of changes.
The campaign of the other parties participating in the Council election was apolitical. Three political forces, RPA, PAP and ANC alliance, overcame the minimum threshold as a result of the election. The latter boycotted the Council’s work, which was justified by numerous election frauds and violations. Levon Ter-Petrosyan, the leader of ANC, characterized the Council election as the ugliest one and announced: “Serge Sargsyan burned all the bridges with the May 31 election frauds. We consider the bridges to be burnt and reject any dialogue with the authorities”.
According to the “Law on local self-government in Yerevan city” in the case of a mandate delay, the places remain vacant, so the elected Council starts his work with an incomplete staff.
Although the RPA was the absolute majority in the Council, the first Council was not formed as a political body, because of the Council’s boycott and mandate delay by the oppositional ANC alliance. The political pluralism was not expressed, and the Council did not become pluralistic and did not provide a competitive platform.
The Council Election of 2013
T he Yerevan Council election of 2013 followed the Presidential Elections, which greatly influenced the campaign. The basis of propaganda from the opposition or other political forces was to present mainly political content to the elections, which was about forming the political competition. The personality of the candidates was not stressed during the campaign, which was a logical approach in terms of the proportional electoral system and the political struggle involved.
The RPA representatives and Taron Margayan personally stressed during their public speeches, that Yerevan City Council elections are not political, “We have stated initially, not to politicize the Council elections, as it is a capital city”: Razmik Zohrabyan, RPA Deputy Chairman.
One of the peculiarities of the campaign was giving national importance to the election. This approach was also expressed in the slogans: “Yerevan, change Armenia” (ARF), “Let’s start from Yerevan” (PAP), and the RPA slogan “For you, Yerevan”. “Barev Yerevan” alliance, which was formed during the presidential elections around Raffi Hovhannisyan, who received almost 37% of the votes, put the concept of the opposition’s revenge in the center of the campaign after the presidential elections, still assigning national importance to the Yerevan Council elections. The RPA, unlike its competitors, was going astray: Taron Margaryan, head of the RPA’s proportional list, was in the center of the campaign.
Between 2009-2013, Yerevan had three mayors. In December 2010, mayor Gagik Beglaryan resigned and RPA party elected Karen Karapetyan as the mayor of Yerevan on December 17, during the Council meeting. The latter served until November 2011, and later resigned on the grounds of finding a new job. The Yerevan City Council elected Taron Margaryan as a mayor during the extraordinary session on November 15, 2011.
In 2013, in middle of the RPA campaign was Taron Margaryan’s activity, including his role as the head of the Avan administrative district. It became known at the time that he was the youngest son of Andranik Margaryan, the former Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia (“I am responsible to my father and to his memory” Taron Margaryan).
The Council Election of 2017
The Council election of 2017, which again followed the parliamentary elections, stood out with a low activity of (40.99%) with both political powers and voter participants. 3 political parties participated in the elections, who formed the Council. The leader of the Council was the current mayor, who is at the head of the RPA’s proportional list.
The Council Election of 2018
O n September 23, 2018, 12 political parties were participating in the extraordinary elections of Yerevan Council. It was the first large electoral process after the April-May events, which included the participation of more than a dozen of political forces.
Before the start of the campaign, both the announcments of the political forces and the media emphasized, “8 candidates will compete for the mayor’s seat” (“Hraparak”). “The number of the candidates increased by one more” (armeniasputnik.am)), “2 Yerevan mayor candidates from PAP” (a1plus.am).
The logic presented in this scenario is that the participants were not representing their proportional lists, but the figure leading the list, as a candidate for the mayor. There is no contradiction from the legislative viewpoint, as according to the current order, the first number of the practical force’ proportional list, who has received the absolute majority, becomes a mayor.
On the other hand, there is a little difference between the Council and the Mayor elections, at least in the propagating and ideological plane. The Council election is held exclusively by the proportional electoral system, in the other words, it is a competition between political forces.
The Mayor election is beyond this context. It goes on to say that a number of political forces attempt to depoliticize the election (…I don’t want to politicize this election campaign, but let no one doubt, that we can move it to such a political plane that I assure no political party could endure either that sprint, or those brains. But we do not have a problem in politicizing this election. Naira Zohrabyan, Pap).
The comparisons of the candidates’ personalities leading the proportional list, their personal merits were noticed during the campaign. ( For the important position of mayor of Yerevan people should have elected not the talented artist Hayk Marutyan, but an experienced political figure Raffi Hovhannisyan, who embodies at first sight western civilization, but, in reality, deeply Armenian norms of solidarity and tolerance. Hovsep Khurshudyan, “Zharangutyun”). Anahit Tarkhanyan, who was on the head of the “Yerevan Community” alliance list, viewed the Council election as a competition of projects: …The programs should compete, not the individuals, and as there are no presented programs, it is too early to talk about it. I estimate my chances are quite high.
Yerevan City Council Elections
The highest citizen participation rate was recorded at the Yerevan City Council elections in 2013.
Since 2009, there have been principal differences and contradictions between the trends in the electoral campaign of the Yerevan City Council, emphases of political forces and in observing the election as political or apolitical. Some forces were depoliticizing, by observing it as an election of a local community leader: political, ideological competition was neither expressed or was too weak.
The election of the Council has so far been perceived and presented as mayoral election, which is under the scope of the community leader’s direct election. Such an approach to the elections of the Council by the political forces hinders the formation of a council as a political structure: it is perceived as a public body adjacent to the mayor. Most of the council member candidates announce that the work in the Council is public, and being a member of the Council does not mean to be engaged in politics. “The Council is itself a work on the basis of public”, (Petros Ghazaryan, PAP), I don’t think that to be nominated as a member of the Council means to be engaged in politics, as Yerevan Council is a state self-government body”, (Gayane Ghulyan, “Reformists”), I don’t see any politics here. The offer to be involved in the list has been by the mayor, I have accepted it.”, Yervand Erznkyan, PRA.
All the political forces took advantages from passive and active means of the campaign: marches, rallies, showing video clips and so on. A big place was given to the criticism of the competitors during the pre-electoral campaign. At the same time, almost all political forces who participate in the elections, have talked about program discussions and the lack of debate.
One of the peculiarities of the Council elections of 2018 was the fact that it was the first large-scale electoral process. In this regard, “My Step” alliance gave the vote of confidence and national significance. Other political parties, participating in the elections, showed more or less denial towards this approach (Naira Zohrabyan, PAP : “Hope, that Yerevan City Council elections won’t be changed into the confidence referendum of the ruling party”. Armen Rustamyan, APF: “To tell the truth, we did not know that we participate in referendum, we have learned about participating in the Council elections”. Artak Zeynalyan, “Luys alliance”: “Yerevan City Council Elections and Extraordinary Parliamentary Elections should not be turned into a confidence referendum of the government. We participate in the local self-government body elections”).
ARF, PAP and “Heritage” were promoting the idea of not politicizing Yerevan City Council elections. The latter were conveying a political content of national importance to the election and were highlighting the political weight of Yerevan’s mayor position, as well as the influence of election results on the whole country. This above-mentioned approach was expressed in the political forces’ slogans.
Some criticisms were raised in the context of a conveying confidence referendum and national importance to the current power towards the number of citizen participation during Yerevan City Council elections (43.65%). (Armen Ashotyan: “We can say for sure, that local self-government elections had a success, confidence referendum did not. We need a political dialogue, but with only an open-wide agenda”. E. Sharmazanov: “Pashinyan put the issue on his confidence for several times, calling on everyone to go to the polling stations and stating that this is a matter of Parliamentary agreement. Now I can say, that Pashinyan threw himself into its own trap: in fact, 57% of Yerevanians ignored Pashinyan’s call and actually only 43% went to the elections”).
The central point of these criticisms was that participant numbers could not have national importance and reflect the whole country’s real political moods. However, it is worth mentioning that the public’s real political aspirations can be judged theoretically, by taking into account the April-May events, and all things after the Parliamentary elections.
Accordingly, political and civil activities at the Parliamentary and local self-government elections are not comparable. In other words, it is almost impossible to make certain statements on the political preferences of 57% of citizens, who haven’t participated in the elections.
Moreover, almost all the local self-government and electoral processes of national importance have raised concerns on the inflated voter-lists and inaccuracies, which means, that the number of citizens in the voter-list doesn’t reflect the number of citizens having the ability to vote.
In this regard, the actual index of citizens’ participation can be much higher, but until the final amendments, such kind of approach is theoretical. There are some problems from the voter-lists’ amendments as well. “No one has the right to remove a missing person from the list. The latter can return at any time and participate in the voting process” (Hovhannes Kocharyan, Deputy Chief of Police of RA).
Nowadays there are no legal and legislative arrangements, according to which the citizens who are not residing in Yerevan at that time, may be removed from the voter-list. According to the current legislative arrangement, it is possible to remove a citizen from the voter-list only in the case of his own wish, which is a rare occurrence.
Finally, both the public and political forces are generally less interested in the local self-government elections rather than in the national elections. From this viewpoint, in comparison with Georgia, we will see that the overall picture is similar.
During the Georgian local self-government elections on October 2017, the citizens’ participation was 45.64%, in Tbilisi it was 43.4% and 43.31% in 2014.
Although the political situation is not the same in Georgia and in Armenia, the participation results in the local self-government elections do not differ significantly.