Arkady Ghoukassian Elected Karabakh President

YEREVAN-STEPANAKERT (Noyan Tapan/Reuter)–Nagorno-Karabakh’s Central Electoral Committee announced Tuesday the official final results of the presidential polls held Monday–naming Arkady Ghoukassian the victor with 90 percent of the total votes cast.

The CEC reported that 84.7 percent of the registered voting population took part in the polls by 8 p.m. Monday. Ghoukassian’s challengers Boris Arushanian and Arthur Tovmassian garnered 5.3 percent and 5.35 percent of the votes–respectively.

Some forty international observed course of the elections–the voting procedures and the count. Among those observers were representatives of the largest political parties of Armenia. They signed a protocol on the returns–stating that the elections were held in accordance to Karabakh’s Presidential Election Law with no known violations.

According to French Parliamentarian Rene Rouquet–who was part of the international team observing–this year’s elections were held more orderly. "These were free and democratic elections. The whole world can learn how to arrange and hold elections by the example of Nagorno Karabakh," he said.

Russia’s former ambassador to Armenia–Vladimir Stupishin–shared those views. According to him–there were no breaches–the election commissions were working competently in accordance to the law.

The former ambassador said–"Karabakh’s enemies will never be able to prevent the Karabakh people from determining their own fate–and the elections are the best proof of that."

Former president and current prime minister of Armenia Robert Kocharian answered journalists’ inquiries–saying–"I’ve come to Nagorno-Karabakh to take part in the election as a voter and mark the Republic’s Independence Day. I know all candidates’ platforms and think that Ghoukassian’s platform will put into practice all tasks and promises I was giving myself when running for Karabakh’s presidency."

He emphasized that "then we were working together on our platform–and I think he will do more than he outlines in his platform if elected president."

Asked to comment on Ghoukassian’s standpoint suggesting that Karabakh citizens should have an opportunity to return to their homes–Kocharian said–"I would be glad myself to return to Karabakh right now. But I think we must do everything that there should be no Karabakh-Armenia issue and everyone should feel that these two entities are indivisible."

Citizens of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic who currently reside in Armenia cast 89.4 percent of their votes in favor of Ghoukassian.

According to the representative of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in Armenia–Naira Melkoumian–the number of people attending the polls has grown by more than 1.5 percent.

According to her–Azerbaijan’s attempt to mar the elections by killing three servicemen had an adverse effect on Azeri hopes. "People have voiced their approval for the new president and pinned their hopes for the future on him," she said.

According to Karabakh CEC branches in Armenian locales–some 2,147 voters out of 2,891 registered individuals cast their ballots in Armenia. Polls operated in Yerevan–Masis–Arzni–Vardenis–Charentsavan and Abovian–where thousands of refugees including those driven out and deported from the regions of Getashen and Shahumian.

During a press conference following the CEC announcement–Reuter reported Ghoukassian saying–"We feel compelled to strengthen our military potential. As long as we have a strong army I doubt Azerbaijan will try to use force against us," adding that talks with the Azeri government had reached a deadlock.

Ghoukassian confirmed Karabakh’s position that under no circumstances would the region submit to Azerbaijan’s rule again–thus dismissing a peace plan proposed by a foreign country’s mediating in the conflict.

"It is senseless to talk about Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan," he said. The latest in a long line of failed proposals calls for Karabakh to be given wide autonomy but technically remain part of Azerbaijan.

The Karabakh forces would have to give up a large buffer zone they have conquered around the perimeter of their state but would be able to keep using a land bridge they won between themselves and Armenia.

Ghoukassian–according to Reuter–said earlier Karabakh could not accept this proposal because it only represented Azerbaijan’s position.

"So far the proposals are leading more toward war than peace–because one side in the conflict is absolutely unsatisfied with the peace talks," he said.

He said Baku was trying to use its oil wealth to put international pressure on the region.

"We don’t see any desire for compromise on the Azeri side. The Azeri position was more reasonable two years ago than it is today," he said. "The compromises we make would depend on compromises Azerbaijan is willing to make."

Reuter also reported that foreign journalists saw one Karabakh Armenian soldier killed by Azeri sniper fire near the town of Aghdam in the early morning hours Monday.

Voters seemed unconcerned with the international community’s position on Karabakh–reported Reuter. "We already have full independence.

"The international community can say what it wants–we don’t care," said 35-year old soldier Artur Arunzhinyan–after voting for Ghoukassian.


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