Local Referendums: Communities in three provinces vote for enlargement

Voters in 22 towns and villages in three Armenian provinces went to the polls on Sunday to express their views on government plans for the enlargement of their communities.

In all three referendums held in the provinces of Lori, Tavush and Syunik residents voted overwhelmingly in support of the measure.

According to the preliminary results published by the Central Election Commission, in Lori 68 percent of those who went to the polling stations (or 1,007 people) in the communities of Tumanyan, Marts, Karinj, Lorut, Shamut, Atan, Ahnidzor voted in favor of uniting their communities into one to be called Tumanyan.

In Tavush, 70 percent of the voters who exercised their voting rights (or 1,412 people) pronounced in favor of uniting the communities of Dilijan, Haghartsin, Teghut, Gosh, Aghavnavank, Hachardzan, Hovk into one to be named Dilijan.

In Syunik, 2,668 people, or 94 percent of those who voted in the referendum, supported the unification of the communities of Shinuhayr, Tatev, Halidzor, Harzhis, Svarants, Khot, Tandzatap, Kashuni into one to be called Tatev.

The referendums took place in conditions of relatively low turnouts. Earlier, the government, which advocates the enlargement of the communities, said the outcome of the referendums would not be binding for it in making the final decision.

Government officials in Armenia believe the program will help make local administration more effective while also cutting some of the costs. The few voices that oppose the move argue that the program aimed at reducing the staffs employed in local governments will not save a lot for the budget, but will only add to the unemployment that is already high in the communities in question. Some members of the peripheral communities also complained that after the enlargement program it will become more difficult for them to communicate with the authorities. People in the relatively larger communities that are to become central after the unification process, on the contrary, have welcomed the plans as the reform will only raise the status and profile of their communities.