Residents of Armenian capital Yerevan, where almost half the country’s population resides, have gone to municipal polls in the first vote since the country saw mass protests to push its former leader to resign.
Voters filled ballots on Sunday to elect the 65-member city council, or Council of Elders and mayor, whose seat has been vacant since former mayor Taron Margaryan resigned in July over corruption allegations .
Observers called the polls a test for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who won his position after leading protests against the former President Serzh Sarkisian in the so-called “Velvet Revolution“.
Pashinyan, whose popularity is based on his anti-corruption and economic reform stance, still faces an Armenian parliament comprising mostly members of the formerly ruling Republican party.
Before the polls, Pashinyan urged citizens to cast ballots for his allies, saying the outcome will determine whether he has enough public support to negotiate holding snap parliamentary election.
“We all understand that the new government needs our support so that anti-revolution forces cannot come back,” 32-year-old construction worker Sargis Hakobyan, who added that he backed Pashinyan’s party to continue the revolution reform, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
By Armenian law, the mayor is selected based on election results for the council. If one party gains more than half of the votes, its candidate becomes mayor. In case of a different outcome, the new council selects the mayor via secret ballot.
Twelve parties and alliances are running for council seats. At the top of the list of Pashinyan’s alliance, My Step, is popular actor and comedian Hayk Marutyan.
The Republican party of ex-President Sargsyan is not taking part in the council polls.