Artsakh President Bako Sahakian declared a one-month state of emergency on Sunday in Artsakh in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, the conronavirus. The order, which went into effect at 10 p.m. local time on Sunday, effectively restricts all public gatherings, but the presidential runoff elections scheduled for Tuesday will not be postponed.
The state of emergency was declared after Sahakian convened meeting of a government task-force coordinating efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The meeting was also attended by representatives of Artsakh’s legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government.
In a message to Artsakh citizens, Sahakian delineated the strict guidelines that have been put in place, adding that the state of emergency will last until May 12. Citing the “people’s discipline and civic responsibility,” Sahakian said that Tuesday’s vote will go on as scheduled, adding that strict public health, sanitary and hygiene protocols were in place to ensure the safety of the electorate.
As of Sunday, Artsakh authorities have reported six coronavirus cases, all of which were confirmed in a span of two days last week. The first coronavirus patient and individuals who came into contact with her were quarantined on April 2, according to Artsakh health officials.
On March 31, approximately 73 percent of registered voters in Artsakh took part in presidential and parliamentary elections. Based on the official results, Artsakh’s Central Election Commission announced on April 1 that none of the presidential candidates had reached the required 50 percent threshold for votes, thus forcing a runoff between the two top vote-getters, which was scheduled for April 14.
Leading in the polls in the March 31 presidential presidential elections was former Artsakh State and Prime Minister Arayik Harutyunyan who received 36,076, or 49.26 percent of the votes. Artsakh Foreign Minister Masis Mayilyan came in second with 19,360, or 26.4 percent of the votes. The two will face off on Tuesday in the runoff elections.
Last week, Mayilyan issued a statement calling for the postponement of the elections due to the public health hazard posed by the coronavirus pandemic. He also dropped out of Artsakh State Television’s live presidential candidate debate on Sunday, leaving Harutyunyan to appear on his own.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Artsakh Central Committee on Thursday issued an announcement, in which it said that the party will not endorse either candidate in Tuesday’s runoff elections. The ARF’s presidential candidate Davit Ishkhanyan came in fourth place in the March 31 elections. The party will be represented in Artsakh’s National Assembly with three delegates, having garnered 6.4 percent of the votes.