BY LUSINE MUSAYELIAN
STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)—Voters in Nagorno-Karabakh went to the polls on Sunday to elect local self-government bodies of the capital Stepanakert and more than 200 other mostly rural communities.
According to the local Central Election Commission, 59 percent of Karabakh’s more than 93,000 eligible voters cast their ballots for individual candidates vying for the top executive positions and local council seats. The CEC said it has received no formal complaints from any of those candidates.
Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, hailed the elections as democratic after casting a ballot at a polling station in Stepanakert. “It can be said that elections have become an integral part of life in our country,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “It’s already a culture.”
“It’s very good that once again elections were held in a civilized environment and within the framework of the law and moral norms,” said Sahakian.
As always, the main electoral race unfolded in Stepanakert. Official vote results there showed government-backed candidate Suren Grigorian winning 62.5 percent of the vote and becoming the town’s new mayor.
Grigorian’s main challenger, former Stepanakert Mayor Eduard Aghabekian, came in a distant second with over 24 percent of the vote. The third mayoral candidate, Marat Hasratian, got about 14 percent.
Hasratian, who is a member of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s parliament, conceded defeat on Monday. “In my view, the elections were held properly,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Aghabekian, for his part, could not be reached for comment. Stepanakert’s outgoing mayor, Vazgen Mikaelian, did not run for reelection.
Predictably, Azerbaijan condemned the elections as illegitimate. “The so-called ‘elections’ are organized with the aim of concealing Armenia’s policy of occupation and bolstering the results of the occupation of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a September 15 statement.
Vasili Atajanian, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s acting foreign minister, scoffed at the criticism, branding Azerbaijan as a hereditary “sultanate” where voters decide nothing. “We are showing the world that we have created a truly democratic state,” he claimed.