With Raffi just finishing his hunger strike but still protesting the presidential election results, the Yerevan Municipal election is heating up. Even though the vote is over a month away on May 5, this is a good thing for Armenia as people need to care more about the political processes. The hottest topic is whether this will be a coup for Raffi and Heritage or whether the opposition is thoroughly crushed.
The opposition could not agree on presenting a combined list, but they are working together to prevent election fraud. Raffi has a large support base in Yerevan, so there is a great possibility that the opposition can win this election, (of course, it would have helped if they had a combined list…). But, with separate lists, it’s more likely that oppositional figures will get more lower level seats (I believe called the Council of Elders), but less likely they will nab the mayorship.
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, people supporting Heritage in the upcoming election are getting harassed. The former rector of the Yerevan State Linguistic University has been summoned twice for interrogation by the National Security Service. His crime? No idea, nothing has been stated, but it is notable that he supports Raffi and is on Heritage’s list for the election.
Prosperous Armenia is trying to change the discourse of the discussion to practical tasks of the position. Their frontrunner, former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian of Civilitas, is focused on the practical tasks of ensuring constant water in the city and promoting a more business-friendly environment. In contrast, the Republicans view this election as an opportunity for the children of current national leaders to cut their teeth and develop into the party’s new guard.
Sadly, who wins at the polls and who actually wins power can be two different people. So, there is a big push to get election observers, both locals and foreigners. Without the attention that comes with a presidential election, it is much more difficult to get outsiders to observe the 469 precincts in Yerevan. With that in mind, there is a big push to get Diasporans currently in Armenia involved. Locals can be easily intimidated, but foreigners can stand up to intimidation (secure in the fact that their embassy will support them). If you’re here in Armenia and want to help, I’m happy to connect you. Either contact Transparency International directly, or email me (Gabe.Armas-Cardona@nyu.edu), and I’ll be happy to connect you with the organizers.