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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09YEREVAN161 2009-03-05 16:12:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Yerevan
Cable title:  

PRESIDENT APPOINTS MAYORAL CANDIDATE TO BE YEREVAN

Tags:   PGOV PHUM KDEM AM 
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VZCZCXRO0916
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHYE #0161 0641612
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 051612Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY YEREVAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8776
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHINGTON DC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L YEREVAN 000161 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM AM
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT APPOINTS MAYORAL CANDIDATE TO BE YEREVAN
MAYOR TWO MONTHS BEFORE ELECTION

Classified By: DCM Joseph Pennington, reason 1.4 (b,d)



1. (U) The government publicized on March 4 that President
Sargsian had appointed Gagik Beglarian, the announced
Republican Party mayoral candidate, to be Yerevan mayor
effective immediately. Beglarian replaces longtime Yerevan
Mayor Yervand Zakharian. The municipal election will be held
May 31, 2009.



2. (U) This year marks the first time that Armenia's capital
will have an elected mayor; previously the Yerevan mayor has
always been appointed by the president, and had powers
equivalent to a regional governor (all of whom are
presidentially appointed). The GOAM revised the law to
create an elected city council and mayor for Yerevan -- home
of roughly 40% of Armenians -- to accomodate its European
democracy commitments. However, the GOAM decided to create
an indirect method of election. There will be a
party-list/proportional representation election to allocate
the new citywide municipal council. The candidate at the top
of the party list of the party which wins a dominant
plurality (of at least 40%) will automatically become mayor.
If no party surpasses the 40% threshold, parties elected to
the council must negotiate and select a mayor from among
their number.



3. (C) COMMENT: Appointing the ruling party candidate to
the mayorship just three months before he is to stand for
election to that position -- and in the absence of any clear
reason, such as an unexpected vacancy -- is a troubling
indicator for what we already expected would be a
particularly problematic election. We share the consensus
view around town that the only reason to do this is to put
Beglarian (more commonly known as "Chorny (Black) Gago" for
his thuggish reputation) in direct control of the levers of
adminstrative power to ensure that the election is well and
thoroughly rigged. The theory is that the previous
incumbent, Zakharian, is unhappy to be displaced, and thus
may not put all his heart and energy into the kind of
hardball arm-twisting and ballot-box stuffing that will
likely be required to elect Beglarian.



4. (C) COMMENT CONTINUED: Yerevan is a bastion of
pro-opposition feeling, and "Chorny Gago" is an infamous
figure in the city, known for his tight control and flagrant
manipulation of the central Yerevan "Kentron" district he has
headed since 2002. He is the very picture of an old-style,
corrupt party machine boss. The authorities would find it
extremely embarassing if the opposition were to win the
capital city election -- which could make the victor the most
legitimate political figure in the country, if cleanly
elected -- so are determined to pull out every trick to
prevent that from happening. With no international election
monitors to keep an eye on proceedings, we expect this
election could be on par with the worst elections in
Armenia's checkered political history. END COMMENT



5. (U) BIO INFORMATION:

Gagik Beglarian
-- Born 1964 in Yerevan
-- Graduated in 1985 from the Yerevan Institute of National
Economy as an economist
-- Served in the army 1985-87
-- 1993 elected to the Supreme Assembly of the Republic of
Armenia
-- Elected chief executive of the "Kentron" (Central)
district of Yerevan in 2002.
-- Joined the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) in 2006.
-- Joined the RPA's governing Board in 2006
-- Married with two childrn
YOVANOVITCH