Popular actor begins term as mayor of Yerevan
The Council of Elders, Yerevan’s municipal parliament, held its first session since its recent elections. The session is traditionally opened with an address by the oldest member of the Council – currently Lilit Pipoyan, who represents the My Step political bloc. According to the agenda, she passed the chairmanship to the new Mayor and leader of My Step, Hayk Marutyan.
Council’s first decisions
The councilors unanimously agreed to hold the mayoral inauguration on 13 October. They also elected the deputy mayor and the heads of full-time commissions.
As he took office, Marutyan proclaimed that all must work for the benefit of the city, regardless of party lines.
“This is the place where you must voice the concerns of Yerevan’s residents without hesitation, and we must find solutions for them,” the new mayor said.
Who is the new mayor?
Hayk Marutyan is a popular comedic actor in Armenia who has featured in many films. Marutyan recently started participating in politics, speaking up against the last government during the civil disobedience events that took place earlier this year. In the days of the revolution Hayk stood side-by-side and supported its leader and now prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan.
Members of Pashinyan’s Civic Agreement political party nominated Marutyan is their candidate for the mayor’s post. Accordingly, he was number one candidate on My Step’s electoral list. The results of the 23 September elections had My Step at 80 per cent, earning the political bloc 57 seats in the Elder’s Council and making Marutyan mayor without any further voting required by the council.
According to the legislature, in order to win, a mayoral candidate has to be number one on the electoral list of the political entity that wins 40 and more per cent of the votes.
Hayk Marutyan’s promises
The new mayor promised to fix a popular issue in the city – public transport. He proposed introducing a unified road transport system, cancelling smaller mini-van and privately operated lines. Marutyan says that implementing the changes would take one to three years.
He also plans to initiate the construction of new metro stations, which should significantly ease the congestion on Yerevan’s main streets. The city is already suffering from traffic jams in peak hours. However, it is not yet clear where the financing for the new metro stations will come from.
Prime minister’s man
During the course of his campaign, Marutyan was seen as Pashinyan’s appointee. The prime minister actively participated in the campaign and supported Marutyan.
As a result, the Elder’s Council elections served as a referendum on trust for the new government. Following the elections, Pashinyan himself had stated that such high numbers in their favour point to a change in the political force in the country.
It should be noted that Yerevan hosts almost half of all the residents of Armenia. Accordingly, experts have noted that in the case of the parliamentary elections, most citizens would cast their votes for the new government.
Why did the last mayor resign?
Protests calling for the resignation of the previous mayor, Taron Margaryan, began immediately after the peaceful revolution of April-May 2018.
The National Security Service of Armenia investigated the former mayor a month after the protests began. They revealed a corruption scheme at the mayor’s office, exchanging construction permits and registering properties for bribes.
This was followed by a corruption scandal in which journalists who investigated Margaryan found undeclared profits which would have taken him 210 years to earn on his mayoral salary. The media investigation was handed over to the security service, and protests continued.
Also at JAMnews: The epic demise of Yerevan’s mayor – all the details
Margaryan finally resigned after a two-month-long standoff. He has not appeared in the media since then.
Since stepping down, Margaryan was again questioned by the security service and thereafter agreed to return approximately $3 million to the city’s treasury.