Despite losing elections, Pashinyan’s party attempts to override Vanadzor elections

Despite losing elections, Pashinyan’s party attempts to override Vanadzor elections – Opposition groups in Vanadzor on Monday accused Armenia’s leadership of seeking to nullify their victory in last December’s municipal election through what they see as an unconstitutional bill.

The country’s third largest city has had no mayor since Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party was defeated in the election.

Civil Contract won only 25 percent of the vote there, compared with 39 percent polled by an opposition bloc led by former Vanadzor Mayor Mamikon Aslanian. The bloc teamed up with the opposition Fatherland party, giving them a majority of seats in the local council empowered to elect the head of the community.

Aslanian thus looked set to regain his post lost in October. But ten days after the ballot, he was arrested on corruption charges rejected by him as politically motivated.

Later in December, Armenia’s Administrative Court banned the new Vanadzor council from holding any sessions until July this year. It cited an appeal against the election results lodged by another pro-government party.

The Armenian parliament hastily passed late last week government-backed legal amendments allowing Pashinian to appoint an acting mayor of the city. The authors of the bill said it is aimed at addressing the post-election “disruption of normal governance” in Vanadzor and possibly other communities..

Opposition lawmakers dismissed that explanation, condemning the bill as an attempt to overturn local election results.

Aslanian’s Vanadzor-based political allies echoed those allegations. One of them, Fatherland member Vahe Dokhoyan, said that Pashinian’s administration violated the Armenian constitution and may now be preparing to force another municipal election later this year.

“Why did they push such a bill through the National Assembly? In order to install a person of their choice as community head,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Dokhoyan also claimed that the government was behind the court injunction blocking sessions of the Vanadzor council.

“What keeps them from allowing the court or telling it, as they always do, to let [the council] meet and elect a mayor?” he said.

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