Return to stage or politics: What's the former mayor of Yerevan planning?
Former mayor Hayk Marutyan on stage
Former Mayor of Yerevan Hayk Marutyan has returned to the screen. For many it was unexpected that after three years in the city administration, he would return to acting.
Tickets for Marutyan’s one-man performance were instantly sold out, so the popular actor and former official is performing in a crowded hall.
In a video preview of the performance he promised to answer the question of whether he would participate in upcoming election for mayor of Yerevan. This suggested to opponents that the actor has launched a “hidden election campaign” and is preparing for the 2023 election.
About how the actor Hayk Marutyan became mayor, why he left the ranks of the ruling team, and the likelihood of his return to politics.
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From actor to mayor
Hayk Marutyan was elected Mayor of Yerevan after the 2018 Velvet Revolution and change of power in Armenia. Prior to that he was known as “Kargin Hayko” (good Hayko) after the name of a humorous program called ‘Kargin’. Many expressions from the show have become part of the popular lexicon.
During the days of the revolution Hayk Marutyan actively participated in protests, together with its leader Nikol Pashinyan, and harshly criticized the former ruling party.
After the change of power, he first appeared on the list of the new ruling party in elections to the city council, became a member of the latter, and then the mayor. But after the war in Karabakh, Hayk Marutyan’s relations with fellow party members soured.
Information periodically appeared in the press that he did not share the position of the authorities. First, the mayor left the party, and about a year later impeachment proceedings began over Marutyan’s disagreements with the ruling Civil Contract party. Representatives of the party said “it is illogical for Hayk Marutyan to continue as mayor,” since he left the ranks of the “Civil Contract” of his own free will.
The fact is that he received the mayorship of Yerevan following elections to the city council in 2018. He was number one on the list of the bloc that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan supported and won. This allowed Marutyan to receive the post of mayor of Yerevan automatically – without an election.
In December last year, Marutyan was relieved of his post.
Marutyan as mayor
Immediately after taking office, Hayk Marutyun took up the problem of garbage collection in the capital.
In 2019, he terminated a contract with the private company Sanitek and created an organization at the mayor’s office which handled garbage collection. During his tenure, he purchased four times as many trash cans and twice as many garbage trucks as the private company.
Under the “revolutionary mayor” 574 elevators were replaced, which were popularly called “death elevators”. Before him only 35 elevators had been replaced in Yerevan in 27 years.
However, many issues in the capital remained unresolved, including Marutyan’s failure to deliver on his promise to improve urban transport.
The former mayor is also remembered for refusing to receive salary supplements, which are traditionally paid to members of the “revolutionary government” and members of parliament. In an interview with Armenian media, Marutyan even stated that his mayoral salary of 415,000 drams [about $1,000] is significantly less than what he earned as an actor and producer. So he rents out his apartment in the center of the capital and lives with his family on the outskirts in order to receive additional income from the difference in rent. Now Marutyan says that he does not consider his years as a mayor to be wasted. He only regrets that he “worked with the wrong political team”, whose principles contradicted his beliefs.
“I thought that the goal of the revolutionaries was to improve the lives of others, but in reality they came to power and began to improve their own lives,” Marutyan said on the day he was removed from office.
“Failed to play a good role in the political theater”
Ani Khachatryan, a member of the city council from the Luys (Light) opposition party, said:
“Yes, it seems that people love the actor Hayk Marutyan, but not the politician Marutyan. He could not play a good role in the political theater, but he is in demand in the real theater.”
Spectators who have already attended the performance write on Facebook also weighed in:
“It was a performance with a deep meaning, both serious and funny.”
“I am impressed. I’m glad he’s back on stage. I thought Hayk would leave Yerevan, leave the country after leaving the job of mayor. It’s great that he stayed and returned to the stage.
“We missed Hayk, we don’t have actors like him. It’s good to have him back on stage.”
“Politics has not changed Hayk, he has remained the same person; this is very valuable.”
Will Marutyan take part in the upcoming election?
Politicians believe that the former mayor intends to participate in the upcoming election to retake his former post.
David Khazhakyan, head of the Luys faction of the city council, believes it is actually an election campaign:
“I am almost sure that Hayk Marutyan will continue to play this one-man show until winter. I do not even rule out that closer to the elections he will put on another such performance – more of a pre-election character. He solves two issues at once: he conducts an election campaign and at the same time raises funds to cover the costs of the campaign.”
In a video that announced Marutyan’s one-man show, the mayor comes out of a building and is asked questions by a group of journalists. One of them asks: “Will you participate in the upcoming election for mayor of Yerevan?” Marutyan answers in the video: “The answers to all questions are in the performance.”
The almost two-hour solo performance ends with a call to love Yerevan and take care of it. But the promised answer to the question of whether the actor will run for mayor is not given.
Former mayor Hayk Marutyan on stage