Announcing new show, ex-Yerevan mayor hints at political comeback

By Mark Dovich

Former Yerevan mayor and well-known comedic actor Hayk Marutyan hinted at a political comeback Monday, announcing he would be staging a one-man show called “The Mayor” later this month.

Tickets to the show sold out in about three hours, and demand was so high that the tickets site temporarily crashed. A teaser for the performance posted on Marutyan’s official Facebook page quickly went viral on Armenian social media.

In the clip, an actor playing a reporter asks Marutyan if he will run in next year’s mayoral elections in Yerevan, prompting him to respond, “guys, you’ll get all the answers to your questions during the show.” Marutyan also takes aim at a number of Armenian politicians and media outlets in the teaser.

Marutyan is regularly bandied about in Armenian political circles as a potential candidate in Yerevan’s next mayoral elections, slated for late September or early October next year, even though he has not said publicly that he wants to run again.

Marutyan’s announcement on Facebook was effectively his first public appearance since last December, when he was ousted from his position as mayor in a city council vote that many considered politically motivated.

The no confidence vote was organized by council members from the My Step alliance, who have the majority of seats on the council and support Pashinyan’s government. Marutyan was replaced by Hrachya Sargsyan, widely seen as a loyalist of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

It was a startling turn of events for Marutyan, who was once viewed as one of Pashinyan’s closest political allies.

Marutyan was a regular fixture at the 2018 rallies in Yerevan that toppled the long-ruling Republican Party government and catapulted Pashinyan to power. Later that year, Marutyan scored a landslide victory in Yerevan city elections, presaging Pashinyan’s sweep of the National Assembly less than three months later.

After Armenia’s disastrous defeat in the 2020 war in and around Karabakh, Marutyan began distancing himself from Pashinyan, as rumors swirled in the Armenian press of a growing rift between the two politicians. In the run up to last June’s parliamentary elections, Marutyan pointedly declined to support Pashinyan’s reelection campaign.

Marutyan generally remains popular among Yerevan residents for his handling of a waste management crisis in the city and for his reform and development efforts as mayor.

In July, Armenia’s State Control Service said that it found violations worth 8.5 billion drams, equal to over $20 million, in an inspection of Yerevan municipality’s finances, focusing largely on Marutyan’s tenure.

The violations were “connected with repairing and paving the city’s streets, landscaping, and the activities of” three companies overseen by the city, the agency said, adding that it had forwarded its findings to the Prosecutor General’s office, which could issue criminal charges based on the report.

A spokesperson for Marutyan told Radio Azatutyun that month that the former mayor “welcomes steps aimed at improving the efficiency of resource management in state bodies.” Marutyan is not directly implicated for wrongdoing in the inspection.