The frontrunner in Artsakh’s presidential runoff elections, Arayik Harutyunyan, is expected to become Artsakh’s next president, according to unofficial results and a congratulatory message from Armenia’s President Armen Sarkissian. Official data indicate that when polls closed at 8 p.m. local time, 44.9 percent of eligible voters took part in the elections, an almost 30 percent decline from the March 31 elections, which saw a 73 percent voter turnout.
Harutyunyan’s press secretary, citing preliminary results, took to Facebook to announce that his candidate had received 87of the voter. He also offered “congratulations to all.”
In offering his own congratulations—and effectively validating the elections—President Sarkissian said that Harutunyan will be assuming Artsakh’s presidency at a “complicated and critical time, when everything is contingent upon developments around the world, especially the complex geopolitical machinations taking place in our region.”
“The Republic of of Artsakh, once again proved that it is an established country with its own governmental structures, and most important, with its citizens,” Sarkissian said in a statement issued by his press office.
“Now, more than ever, there is a need for us to be united and unified,” said Sarkissian.
Sarkissian expressed confidence that Harutyunyan, who has served as Artsakh’s state and prime minister, will be able to strengthen the [civic] atmosphere of harmony and compassion in Artsakh; establish and secure Artsakh’s security; economic and political development; and bring the people together around unified aspirations.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Hautyunyan congratulated the people of Artsakh for a successful runoff elections given what he called the harsh conditions imposed by the global coronavirus pandemic and said, “We are moving forward. We must create our people’s prosperous future.”
In his statement Harutyunyan said that he would leave the matter of the voter turnaround to be assessed by political analysts, saying that he believed that a segment of the population—both his and his opponent’s supporters—might have thought that the results of the election were predetermined and they didn’t think that their participation was necessary.
Soon after the polls closed on Tuesday, Artsakh’s Central Election Commission secretary Gayane Arushanyan told Armenpress that 47,050 people voted in the elections, compared with the 76,728 who turned out on March 31.
Tuesady’s runoff elections were taking place two days after Artsakh declared a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Despite initiating stringent social distancing guidelines, the order stressed that the elections would go on as scheduled, with the government ensuring the public health by instituting strict sanitary and hygiene directives, which included disinfecting all polling stations in Artsakh.
Harutyunyan was the frontrunner in the March 31 elections, which also included a parliamentary elections, in which his Free Homeland coalition won the majority (40.4 percent) of the votes. In the presidential polls, however, Harutyunyan and runner up Masis Mayilyan, who is the Artsakh Foreign Minister, did not receive the required 50 percent of the votes, forcing a runoff.
On April 5, Mayilyan called for the postponement of the runoff elections, citing the safety of the population because of the coronavirus pandemic. He urged his supporters to not take part in the Tuesday’s voter. Officials in Artsakh have reported six cases of the coronavirus.