STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources) — Incumbent Karabagh (Artsakh) President Bako Sahakyan won re-election on Thursday, July 19, taking 66.7 percent of the votes. Runner-up Gen. Vitali Balasanyan got 32.5 percent of votes, while Arkadi Soghomyan received 0.8 percent votes. In 2007, Sahakyan won by 85.12 percent, while his main opponent Masis Mailyan, by official data, scored only 12.53 percent. Thus, 80-90-percent victories were consid- ered to be the norm in Karabagh, however, things have changed and “the bar is lower” now and Sahakyan has cleared it with 67 percent.
The lack of an opposition was actually the reason why two years ago the Freedom House organization ranked Karabagh “not free,” removing it from the list of “partly free” countries.
The traditionally negative approach
of the international community towards elections in Karabagh has seen some changes. Despite the fact that Baku and Ankara made critical statements that they do not recognize the elections, Russia, France and the US refrained from making any statements. Georgia did not hold back, however, announcing through its Foreign Ministry, that it “wishes to reaffirm the Georgian government’s unequivocal support for Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that it “does not recognize the so-called ‘presidential elections’ which were held in Nagorno-Karabagh.”
European Parliament members Ewald Johann Stadler from Austria and Daniel Walder Stup from the Netherlands observed the elections. The observer mission from Europe included also experts from Bulgaria and Poland. Also monitoring the election was a delegation from the Canadian House of Commons and several Russian members of parliament. Russian Liberal-Democrat Party representative in the Russian State Duma Alexander Balberov stated: “The people have a right to decide which country to live in and under whose leadership, and which way of development to take.”
A total of around 80 international observers were present, from the US, Russia, Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland, Cyprus, Hungary, Bulgaria, Argentina, Uruguay and others, as well a delegation of officials from Armenia.
Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan issued an address on occasion of presidential elections. He said, “These elections marked a new victory on the path of building a legal state and realizing our national aspirations. They are another manifestation of the nation’s high civil stance and wisdom. The people of Artsakh once again reconfirmed their adherence to international norms and standards, their irreversible determination to build a free, independent and fair state. I express
deep gratitude to citizens of Artsakh for partaking in the elections, to my supporters who entrusted high confidence in me as well as those who voted for the other Presidential candidates. For me as the Artsakh Republic President there is no greater and binding power than my nation’s confidence and responsibil- ity for our country’s future. We are ready and resolute in carving this future.”
Several members of Congress issued statements of support for the elections. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs committee, released a statement on the July 19 presidential election in Karabagh.
“I congratulate President Bako Sahakyan of the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh on his reelection,” Sherman said. “Since independence, Artsakh has developed a democracy and a vibrant civil society despite remarkably difficult challenges. I also congratulate the people of Artsakh on their record of democratization. I will continue to work in the House Foreign Affairs Committee to make sure our foreign policy is supportive of the independence and prosperity of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co- chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ed Royce (R-CA) congratulated the republic on its July 19 presidential elections.
“We join with Representatives Pallone and Royce in commending the people of Nagorno Karabagh as they exercise their right to choose their own government through democratic elec- tions,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “As we reflect on the Artsakh vote, we are reminded of the words of our own late President John F. Kennedy, who, on the day of his inau- guration said: ‘We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom.’”
In a statement Pallone noted, “As the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, I wish to extend my congratulations to the Nagorno Karabagh Republic on their exercise of
democratic presidential elections. It is heartening to see their continued dedi- cation to peaceful democracy. On September 2, 1991 the Nagorno Karabagh Republic declared the formation of an independent, democratic republic. On December 10, 1991 a referendum on the independence of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic took place and was overwhelmingly approved. I am pleased the Republic continues to hold regular parliamentary and presidential elections that have previously been viewed as free and fair by international observers.”
Royce concurred, noting “I commend the people of Nagorno Karabagh for holding peaceful and honest elections. Throughout the years we have seen a trend of its electoral system working in proper fashion and the most recent election maintains that precedent.”
Armenian political scientist Yervand Bozoyan said the elections bode well for Karabagh. “The world must realize that Karabagh, which has much more democratic and legal authorities, can- not be subjected to an authoritarian country,” he said, adding that these elections seem to be far more democratic than the ones in Azerbaijan.
The official international observer mission of the International expert Center for Electoral Systems (ICES) considers the presidential election process in Nagorno-Karabagh — or Artsakh — as an established democratic act of expression of will by the republic’s citizens, an act which is consistent with international norms, the aforesaid mission’s chief Alexander Tsinker stat- ed during a press conference on Friday.
The observers also noted that falsification of election results was not recorded at the polling stations and when the records were being submitted to the Central Electoral Commission. The international observers visited 52 polling stations.
(Stories from Armenpress, ArmeniaNow and news.am were used to compile this report.)