YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Yerevan’s mayor, Hrachya Sargsyan, stepped down on Friday after only 15 months in office.
Sargsyan gave no clear reason for his resignation when he announced it at a meeting with other senior officials from the municipal administration.
“Now that the [next] elections of the city council are approaching and there is quite good cooperation between the mayor’s office and the government I want to announce my resignation,” he said, adding that he will remain part of Armenia’s ruling “political team.”
The elections of a new municipal council empowered to appoint the mayor are due to be held September. It was not immediately clear whether Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party, which controls the current council, engineered Sargsyan’s resignation to bring forward the vote.
The ruling party announced a year ago that former Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan will be its mayoral candidate in 2023. Avinyan was appointed as one of the city’s five deputy mayors in September.
The Armenian press has been rife with speculation lately that Avinyan has low approval ratings and is overshadowed by Sargsyan despite leading most official ceremonies organized by the municipality.
Isabella Abgaryan, an independent member of the city council, said that the mayor’s resignation is part of government efforts to boost Avinyan’s chances in the municipal elections.
“I see only one explanation,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “They want to make sure that the city is put under the exclusive control of Tigran Avinyan ahead of these elections.”
Abgaryan said that despite being installed by the country’s leadership Sargsyan followed “his own line” and relied on “his own people” during his tenure.
In his farewell remarks, Sargsyan said that he supports Avinyan’s mayoral bid and hopes that Pashinyan’s party will win the upcoming polls. But he also acknowledged differences within the municipal administration.
The current Yerevan council appointed Sargsyan as mayor in December 2021 right after ousting his predecessor Hayk Marutyan, who fell out with Pashinyan following the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Marutyan, who is a former TV comedian, has since been coy about his participation in the 2023 polls.
None of Armenia’s major opposition groups have fielded mayoral candidates so far.