Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's bloc has won a resounding victory in municipal elections in the capital, Yerevan. According to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), Pashinian's My Step bloc received 81 percent of the votes, paving the way for installing its top candidate, popular actor and producer Hayk Marutian as mayor of Yerevan. Residents of Yerevan took to municipal polls Sunday, the first vote held in the ex-Soviet country since mass protests pushed its former leader to resign, and a major test for the new government.
The election of the city council or Council of Elders and mayor in the capital, where almost half the national population lives, is crucial for Armenia's PM Pashinian, who was swept into his new role after spearheading weeks of protests in May. Pashinian, whose popularity is based on his anti-corruption and economic reform stance, has faced an Armenian parliament mostly comprised of members of the formerly ruling Republican party. Ahead of the polls, he urged citizens to cast ballots for his allies, saying the outcome will determine whether he has enough public support to negotiate holding a snap parliamentary election.
The mayoral seat has been empty since former mayor Taron Margaryan resigned on July 9 over corruption allegations and protests urging him to quit. Snap polls were triggered when the city council was unable to select a new mayor. By Armenian law, the mayor is selected based on election results of the council: if one party gains more than half of the votes, the party's candidate becomes mayor. In case of a different outcome, the new council selects the mayor via secret ballot.