Observers Call Artsakh Elections Democratic

Artsakh's National Assembly building in Stepanakert. (Photo: official publication)

Artsakh’s National Assembly building in Stepanakert

STEPANAKERT—Artsakh held its sixth parliamentary elections on Sunday, with 33 seats in the Artsakh National Assembly available for the taking between seven parties.

Preliminary results show that Artsakh Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan’s Free Motherland Party received 47.5 percent of the vote; the Democratic Party of Artsakh, led by Speaker of the Artsakh Parliament Ashot Ghulyan, received 19.1 percent of the vote; the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) garnered 18.8 percent of the vote; Movement 88, led by former deputy defense minister and presidential candidate Vitaly Balasanyan, received 6.93 percent; and the National Rebirth Party received 5.38 percent.

Artsakh’s 33 parliamentary seats are filled partly by proportional representation, in which constituents vote for a political party who are then accorded a number of seats in parliament proportional to the percentage of votes the party received. 22 seats in the Artsakh National Assembly are awarded by this method. The remaining 11 are filled by individual, regional representatives elected directly by constituents.

On May 4, a day following the elections, the ARF Artsakh Central Committee held a meeting, after which they released a statement thanking those who voted for the ARF, the Armenian Weekly reports.

“The [ARF Artsakh] Central Committee is proud to announce that by securing approximately 20 percent of the of the overall vote and winning three majoritarian seats, the ARF will have a larger presence in the country’s sixth parliament and thus become the second most represented party in Artsakh,” read the statement.

The elections saw a 70.6 percent voter turnout – out of 102,034 eligible voters.

About 100 international and 110 local observers monitored the course of the elections. Overall, the observers concluded that the elections complied with international democratic standards.

According to CivilNet, several observers from the United States were in Nagorno-Karabagh to monitor the elections including Fresno County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andreas Borgeas; Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Western Region’s Nareg Kitsinian and Tereza Yerimyan; Director of UC Berkeley Law’s Election Administration Research Center Karin MacDonald; Executive Director of PAROS Foundation Peter Abajian; Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin; and UC Davis Student and EARC intern Kristin Abajian.

The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD, ANC of Europe) deployed a ten-member team of professional short-term observers (STOs) from Austria, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Romania and the Netherlands to observe the ongoing elections. A team of journalists, politicians and activists organized by EAFJD also closely followed the elections.

Artsakh’s Central Election Commission is set to publicize the final election results on May 11.

Markarian: Artsakh a top priority
“Just as we came together and worked hard to properly commemorate the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Armenia and around the world, we must work collectively for the future of Artsakh,” said ARF Bureau representative Hrant Markarian – who was in Stepanakert during Artsakh’s official commemoration of the Genocide centennial – in a recent interview with Yerkir Media.

Speaking about the political atmosphere in Artsakh leading up to the elections, Markarian noted that the mood was generally positive. “Everything seems to be peaceful. There is a sense of mutual respect between political powers in Artsakh; a positive atmosphere for fair elections,” he said.

Commenting on the role of the ARF in the country, Markarian noted that the party has always been an influential force in the country, both during the Artsakh war and during its statehood. “Over the past 25 years, we [the ARF] have always been a presence in Artsakh. Even in our activity outside of the country, Artsakh has always been a top priority … We have fought tooth and nail for Artsakh and continue to do so today,” said Markarian.

On April 30, the OSCE Minsk Group, the main international body responsible for advancing a peaceful resolution of the Artsakh conflict, issued a statement regarding the elections. While the Minsk Group recognized the right of the people of Artsakh to hold elections, the statement said that it would not recognize the results of the elections. “In the context of a comprehensive settlement of the conflict, we recognize the role of the people of Nagorno-Karabagh in deciding their future. However, none of our three countries, nor any other country, recognizes Nagorno-Karabagh as an independent and sovereign state. Accordingly, we do not accept the results of these ‘elections’ as affecting the legal status of Nagorno Karabakh, and stress that they in no way prejudge the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiations to bring a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” read the statement.

The statement came after a set of furious comments from Turkey and Azerbaijan condemning the democratic elections in Artsakh and months of heightened aggression from Azerbaijan at the borders of Artsakh and Armenia, where Azeri troops have been violating the ceasefire on an almost daily basis.

Representatives of the European Union and the United States issued similar statements. “I believe the statements of the EU and US to only [represent] one side of the situation. The other side is that the world powers are responding to the Karabakh people’s struggle for freedom,” Director of European Friends of Armenia Eduardo Lorenzo Ochoa said.

Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the European Parliament-Artsakh Friendship Group Frank Engel told reporters in Stepanakert that many European countries “would dream of the turnout recorded at the parliamentary elections in Artsakh.”

“Azerbaijan held presidential elections in 2013. Their results were announced before the polling stations were opened and the voting day was just used to ensure more votes for Aliyev,” Engel said.

“I regret that the EU and a number of European organizations announced that they do not recognize these elections,” Engel noted.


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