41-Year-Old Comedian Elected New Mayor of Yerevan

Residents of Yerevan elected their new mayor on September 23, in a snap election – the first democratic elections for the City Council since 2009. 41-year-old Hayk Marutyan was formerly a producer and comedian famous for his television appearances. He ran as the candidate of the political alliance My Step, supported by Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, who was himself elected in a wave of reform-oriented youth-led activism this spring termed the Velvet Revolution.

The chairman of the Central Election Committee of Armenia, Tigran Mukuchian, briefed reported the day after the elections. He announced that the My Step alliance received 81% of the vote (294,109 votes) and will have the controlling majority of seats in Yerevan’s City Council.

Hayk Marutyan will succeed Taron Margaryan, a representative of the Republican Party who was forced to resign from his post following strong public pressure in July, soon after the Velvet Revolution and the subsequent change of power in Armenia. 

For the first time in two decades, all local and foreign observers monitoring the elections called the elections free and fair – fully in line with democratic standards. Marukyan’s challengers and opposing political parties recognized the legitimacy of the elections and congratulated Marukyan on his win. The main challenger of the My Step alliance was the Prosperous Armenia party, led by billionaire Gagik Tsarukian. Prosperous Armenia won only 7% – the lowest support in an election since the party’s founding in 2007. Tsarukyan recognized the results of the election and congratulated Marutyan on his win.

The Republican party, who ruled Yerevan from 2009 - 2018 did not nominate a candidate for mayor, and did not participating in the elections, although the vast majority of City Council seats were held by Republican party members. Although twelve other parties and political alliances challenged the My Step alliance, it was obvious, that they were the favorite, due largely in part to the support of wildly popular Prime Minister Pashinyan. Pashinyan actively participated in most My Step rallies and gave speeches during the campaign, calling on his supporters to turn out and vote for My Step. The election was considered a proxy vote of confidence in the new government, as the first elections after the Velvet Revolution. Pashinyan said that voting for “My Step” would serve as a kind of referendum on whether to call for snap parliamentary elections.

Today, Pashinyan affirmed his statement in a Facebook Live session from New York, where he is currently attending the UN General Assembly. Today is the first day of the high-level General Debate, which will last nine working days.

Pashinyan announced that he will start negotiations with the parliamentary factions on calling early parliamentary elections as soon as he returns to Armenia, saying that the Parliament does not represent the will of the people, and most parliamentary parties participating in the City Council elections received very little voter support.

Calling for new parliamentary elections was part of Pashinyan’s platform during the Velvet Revolution, and upon being elected, Pashinyan announced that Armenia would hold snap parliamentary elections in one year’s time. The Republican party still holds a plurality of seats in Parliament, which was formed during the widely criticized parliamentary elections of April 2017. Pashinyan leads the Way Out Alliance, which has just 9 seats in the 105-member Parliament. Pashinyan’s election was made possible only by unprecedented pressure from the Velvet revolutionaries. Maintaining parliamentary control, however, the Republican party has been throwing obstacles in the path of the new political wave, going so far as to violate national administrative laws.


By Karen Tovmasyan

25 September 2018 10:45