By Arsen Stepanyan
On May 14, the residents of Yerevan, Armenia will elect a City Council. The capital of Armenia is home to about 40% of country’s population. Of the 1,076,000 Yerevan residents, 841,973 have the right to vote. Yerevan City Council is elected for 4 year term, has 65 members, and elects the Mayor of Yerevan.
City Council is the highest local government authority in Yerevan. It elects the Yerevan Mayor, approves city budget and exerts oversight over the Mayor and City Budget, approves Yerevan Development Plan (the long-term strategy of Yerevan Municipality), City urban development plan and zoning, municipality staffing and salaries, including that of the Mayor. City Council approves local sales and trade policies, user fees and charges, and other local government related matters. For 2017, Yerevan City budget is projected at 84 billion 344 million AMD, which is about $174 million.
Yerevan is divided into 12 administrative districts, the heads of which are appointed by the Mayor. The city has 1700 staff members including municipality and its community organizations. Municipality is in charge of Education (including preschool education), healthcare, parks and recreation, environmental issues, sanitation, urban development and zoning, community social services, city trade and sales regulations, roads, transportation and parking, arts, culture, and museums.
Current City Council was elected in 2013. Three political parties/blocs are represented in it: Republican Party of Armenia (42 members), Prosperous Armenia party (12 members,) and Hello Yerevan Bloc (5 members). Council members work without salary, but their expenditures may be compensated (no more than the minimum wage of 55 000 AMD). The Mayor's salary is determined by the Council, currently at 575,000 AMD a month, which is roughly $1,200.
The Election of the Mayor and City Council
Residents of Yerevan over the age of 18 have the right to vote in the elections. To be eligible to vote, an Armenian citizen should be registered in Yerevan for at least 6 months and non-citizens should be registered for at least 12 months before the election date. People who do not have citizenship but are registered as Yerevan residents for 12 months can vote and also be candidates for City Council. However, non-residents cannot be Mayoral candidates. A mayoral candidate should be an Armenian citizen who holds no other citizenship, is a City Council member and at least 30 years old. The mayor is elected by secret ballot during the first meeting of the newly elected City Council, by a majority vote of council members. However, if a political party receives more than 50 percent of council seats, the party's first number on the list automatically becomes Yerevan Mayor.
To enter the City Council, political parties should receive at least 6% of the votes and Blocs/alliances should secure at least 8% of the votes in an election. Up to 20% of candidates from a political party can be non members. In addition, there is a 25% gender quota, whereas when taking the mandates, winning political parties should ensure that there is at least 25% representation of each gender.
Mayoral Candidates for 2017 Yerevan City Elections
Three political parties are participating in Yerevan City Council Elections: Republican Party of Armenia, Yerkir Tsirany, a newly registered political party led by former member of Heritage Party Zaruhi Postanjyan, and YELK alliance of four political parties formed before 2017 parliamentary elections. Taron Margaryan (the incumbent) is the mayoral candidate from the Republican Party; the Yerkir Tsirany candidate is party chairwoman, former member of Heritage Party Zaruhi Postanjyan; and Nikol Pashinyan, a current Member of Parliament is the candidate of "YELK" alliance.
Since the independence of Armenia, Yerevan has had 11 mayors. Current mayor is the Republican Party candidate Taron Margaryan who was elected in 2013. Before Margaryan, current Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan was the Mayor, who was elected in December 2010 but resigned after 11 months in the position.
Key issues in Yerevan elections include:
· Sanitation: Trash collection, snow, cleaning of streets
· Public transportation
· Parks and recreation, where often public parks were allocated to be used for commercial purposes or construction
· Roads, and their accessibility, parking and public transportation
· Cemeteries, administration of, cremation and crematoria
· Condominiums, apartment complex
· Community services, including child care, foster care, psychosocial support, etc
· Arts, culture, theaters, museum funding
· Local trade and sales.