YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A top national gas distribution company manager has been installed as the new mayor of Armenian capital Yerevan after receiving an overwhelming support of the ruling party-dominated municipal assembly in a vote on Friday.
Karen Karapetian, who has been chief executive of the Armenian-Russian joint venture, ArmRosGazprom, since 2001, was named candidate for the top city post by the Republican Party of Armenia to succeed Gagik Beglarian, a controversial mayor who resigned earlier this month after being embroiled in a high-profile scandal with the presidential administration.
In what was largely a rubberstamp vote by the Council of Elders, an elected body of representatives in Yerevan, Karapetian won the backing of 50 assemblymen, with only one voting against his candidacy.
The 47-year-old business manager was a candidate on the official Republican ticket during the disputed May 2009 municipal elections in which President Serzh Sarkisian’s ruling party achieved a landslide victory. Eventually, he did not enter the municipal body.
In his remarks after the voting, Karapetian first thanked President Serzh Sarkisian for “trusting” him and called for “a new municipal culture” that he said would “satisfy both the citizens and guests of Yerevan”.
Karapetian also assured leaders in Yerevan districts that there would not be sweeping personnel changes.
“But there would be rules and requirements to managers,” he said. “Those who meet these requirements will stay, those who don’t will go.”
The mayor-elect spoke respectfully of his predecessor in answering a media question.
“To be honest, I think that Gagik Beglarian has made some good steps. Each new mayor of Yerevan comes to continue the programs of the previous mayor that were passed through the Council of Elders,” he stressed.
Karapetian, who, unlike his predecessor, is not a member of the Republican Party, emphasized his support for the party, but added that he didn’t have a decision yet to join its ranks.
A representative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was less categorical in his assessments of the new mayor.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service Artsvik Minasian described Karapetian as “a good manager, but not a politician”.
“As the Yerevan municipality, or the Council of Elders, is formed on a political basis, in this case I would refrain from evaluating his political approaches,” said Minasian.
Lawmaker Larisa Alaverdian, representing the opposition Heritage party, meanwhile, voiced expectations that the new mayor would “put an end to corruption and will finally make sure that the decisions of the mayor’s office correspond to the Constitution and laws.”
On the eve of the vote at Yerevan’s Council of Elders, the Republican leadership also approved several changes in the government at Sarkisian’s suggestion. Those included the replacement of Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsian with Finance Minister Tigran Davtian and appointing Central Bank vice-governor Vache Gabrielian as the latter’s successor.
The Republican board also approved Sarkisian’s nomination of prominent law expert Hrair Tovmasian to be appointed justice minister. The position has remained vacant since December 9 when the president sacked Gevorg Danielian for what the Armenian government described as his failure to punish one of his high-ranking subordinates allegedly involved in violent conduct.
The ministerial portfolios in question belong to the Republican Party under its power-sharing deal with two junior coalition partners.
All the changes were confirmed on Friday with official orders issued by President Sarkisian.
Also on Friday, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan issued an order sacking Vazgen Khachikian, the head of the State Social Security Service.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service late on Thursday, Republican spokesman Edward Sharmazanov said the changes were aimed at “raising the efficiency of the government’s work.”