Hamik Avanesian Elected Mayor of Stepanakert

STEPANAKERT (Noyan Tapan–RFE/RL)–Nonpartisan Hamik Avanesian–supported by the Democratic Artsakh Union–has been elected Mayor of the Karabakh capital of Stepanakert. According to preliminary data–6,675 of 12,617 who went to the polls on September 5 cast their votes in favor of Hamik Avanesian–surpassing the votes of five other candidates running for mayor.

According to preliminary data–a 60.2 percent turnout has been ensured in local elections in Karabakh. 52,750 out of 87,556 eligible voters went to the polls. The elections and their results are considered valid and in accordance to the democratic law.

According to the data of the Karabakh Central Electoral Commission–elections were held in 230 communities in the republic–and only two regions will hold run-off elections.

The political party of President Arkady Ghoukassian claimed on Thursday victory in the previous day’s local elections–saying that its candidates won the top executive posts in atleast 140 out of 223 towns and villages–including the capital Stepanakert–reported Radio Free Europe.

The chairman and campaign manager of the Democratic Artsakh Union–Ashot Ghulian–told RFE/RL that the ruling party achieved "excellent results in almost all regions" of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

According to preliminary official results released by the Central Election Commission–DAU candidate Hamik Avanesian was elected the new mayor of Stepanakert with approximately 53 percent of the vote. His main rival–Maxim Mirzoyan of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation–received 30 percent of the votes

The ARF came in second in the overall voting as well–doing worse than it had expected. The local branch of the pan-Armenian nationalist party won control of more than 20 communities–mostly villages in the southern Hadrut district–the traditional ARF stronghold. A dozen of other newly elected village chiefs were endorsed by the party despite not being affiliated with it.

ARF leaders declined to comment on the freedom and fairness of the elections. They said their assessment of the polls will contained in a special report to be issued in the coming days. Still–a CEC member representing ARF–Sergei Shahverdian–complained about the unauthorized presence of government officials at the polling stations in Stepanakert on the voting day.

The CEC figures show that at least 60 percent of all eligible voters took part in the ballot–condemned as illegitimate by Azerbaijan and several international organizations. The Council of Europe has warned the Karabakh authorities that the elections might have a negative impact on the ongoing Armenian-Azeri peace talks. The United States–however–has said they will not affect the peace process.

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