Armenian ruling party declares victory in second round of local elections

By bne IntelliNews October 4, 2016

Armenia's ruling Republican Party (HHK) has claimed victory in the local elections held in about 300 municipalities on October 2. HHK deputy chairman Armen Ashotian told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's local service on October 3 that the party's candidates had won 60% of the positions for mayors and local councils.

This is the second round of local elections in Armenia this year. The first took place in September in 317 municipalities, and HHK also claimed victory in over 80% of the competitions in which its candidates were listed. This year's local elections could provide an indication of HHK's performance in the parliamentary elections scheduled for the spring of 2017.

The election results suggest support for the ruling party was not badly hit by the anti-government protests held earlier this year. Protesters rallied against corruption, poverty and the government's handling of a territorial dispute with Azerbaijan in the capital city of Yerevan in July. In September, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan stepped down and was replaced by Karen Karapetyan, a former Yerevan mayor. President Serzh Sargsyan is the ruling party's chairman, and many of Armenians' grievances are targeted at him. 

The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a nominally opposition party headed by businessman Gagik Tsarukian appears to have finished a distant second, RFE/RL reports. However, HHK came close to losing the fight for some of the largest towns, such as Vanadzor and Gyumri, where its candidates faced a dozen of opponents. The party failed to secure an outright majority in either constituency, mustering some 37.5% of the votes in the former and 35% in the latter.

Ashotian said that the ballot was a major success for HHK. The ruling party is nevertheless better positioned than opposition parties to contend in local elections, because it can use its resources to sway public opinion in favour of its candidates to a larger degree than it would be able to do in national elections.

Election monitors like the non-governmental group Citizen Observer have reported some 190 cases of irregularities, such as voting by deceased individuals, multiple voting and vote buying. 

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