YEREVAN–The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) kicked off its campaign for the May 31 Yerevan municipal polls on Monday with a tree planting ceremony and a campaign rally where the party presented its election platform.
The ARF, a major election contender, held its first campaign rally at Yerevan’s largest cinema on Monday, one week after it pulled out of the ruling coalition in protest against Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy on Turkey.
The party has put forward 50 candidates for the 65 municipal council seats that will be contested during the election. Speaking at the rally, the ARF’s top candidate, Artsvik Minasian, presented the party’s platform, pledging to make the city’s administrative process more transparent and engaging for its citizens.
Minasian, a parliament deputy from the ARF, said the party’s platform covers the gamut of issues and problems affecting Yerevan and its inhabitants, from political alienation to economic and social equality, as well as the growing level of population.
He pledged also to end serious restrictions on gatherings and demonstrations in Yerevan that were put in place following Armenia’s February 2008 presidential election. “We would make every effort to ensure that those restrictions are not undue and ludicrous,” said Minasian.
The ARF’s election platform also seeks to establish a standing commission that will exercise oversight over all city government affairs. Its leadership will be determined by the opposition. The ARF will also put forward short and long-term programs for the city’s development, as well as “review and optimize” city staff salaries.
These elections are very significant, according to Armen Rustamian, the chairman of the ARF’s Supreme Body in Armenia, who also spoke at the rally. “The government and the radical opposition represent two extremes with the government trying to diminish the significance of the election and the opposition trying desperately politicize it for their battle against the government,” Rustamian said, describing both approaches as unacceptable for the ARF.
He said the party is running with a team that is not only familiar with the problems facing the capital, but also fully equipped to solve them. “Believe me when I tell you that everything we pledge during our election campaign is not beyond our ability to realize,” Rustamian said. “Everyone on our candidate list knows what they are doing and their record has shown they are capable of solving the challenges facing the city.”
Also on the ARF’s ticket are Albert Achemian, a Yerevan based architect; Anahit Yesayan, a longtime Yerevan civil servant; and Maria Titizian the leader of the ARF Women’s Organization.
The May 31 ballot will be the first since the passage in November 2005 in a nation-wide referendum of constitutional amendments that abolished the right of the Armenian president to name the Yerevan mayor.
According to legislation enacted in late December 2008, the mayor will now be selected by the 65-person Yerevan municipal council, which will be elected under the party-list system. The threshold for representation for individual political parties is 7 percent, and for alliances or blocs 9 percent. Forty percent of the vote would be sufficient to give any one party or alliance a majority of the council seats.
The five other parties that have registered candidates for the vote are President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia and its two junior partners Prosperous Armenia, and Orinats Yerkir; and the extra-parliamentary Armenian National Congress, the People’s Party and Labor-Socialist Party