STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)—More than 70 percent of eligible voters in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic flocked to the polls Sunday to elect a new parliament—the fifth legislature since the declaration of independence.
More than 50 international observers and 30 international media had turned to the Karabakh authorities for monitoring or covering the elections in which four political parties with a total of 82 candidates on their slates were vying for 17 seats in parliament. The other seats in the 33-seat body were contested by 44 candidates in single-mandate constituencies. The legislature in Karabakh is elected for a five-year term.
The preliminary results published by the Karabakh Central Election Commission (CEC) on Monday showed Karabakh Prime Minister Ara Harutiunian’s Free Fatherland party as leading the vote with some 46 percent. Parliament speaker Ashot Ghulian’s Democratic Party of Artsakh and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation have garnered about 29 and 20 percent of the vote, respectively. The Communist Party failed to clear the six-percent hurdle, which is required under Karabakh’s election laws to enter the legislature, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
According to a report from Karabakh Central Electoral Commission, 66,919 out of 95,303 people or 70.11 percent of the total number of voters took part in the election. The highest turnout was registered in Hadrut (81.37 percent), followed by Mardakert (84.24%) and Martuni (80.24%).
On the single mandate front, two ARF candidates Armen Sargsyan and Kamo Martirossian won the elections in their respective districts.
“It is a pleasure to live in a country that supports democratic values. And democracy is a value for us, along with independence and sovereignty,” said Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian after casting his vote on Sunday.
“Together with our people the [newly elected] National Assembly should be working towards achieving great successes in Karabakh’s recognition,” he added, emphasizing the Karabakh’s commitment to democratic norms and principles.
Similar views were echoed by Yerevan, where Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said the elections attest to the commitment by the authorities and the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to democracy and the rule of law.
“The recognition of the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh to determine their own fate is at the core of the proposals presented by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs,” said Nalbandian.
“In the matter of settling the Karabakh problem the international community should be primarily interested in dealing with authorities elected by the people of Karabakh,” stressed Nalbandian, adding that with the latest elections “the citizens of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic once again have proved their resolve to express their will to live freely and independently.”
As expected, Azerbaijan decried the elections and its foreign ministry claimed that the parliamentary elections would adversely impact the peace process.
Reactions from Russia and the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen indicated that Sunday’s elections would not hinder the ongoing peace process.
“In Moscow we do not think that the course of the Karabakh peace process could depend on the holding of elections in Karabakh,” Andrei Nesterenko, a Russian Foreign Ministry official representative, said on Monday.
“Russia supports Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity as well as other fundamental principles of international law,” he added. “As is known, we do not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state. We believe the future status of Karabakh must be determined without the use of force and within the framework of the Minsk Group, as a result of political negotiations involving all parties.”
“Although the Co-Chairs understand the need for the de facto authorities in NK to try to organize democratically the public life of their population with such a procedure, they underscore again that Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized as an independent and sovereign state by any of their three countries, nor by any other country, including Armenia. The Co-Chairs consider that this procedure should not preempt the determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh in the broader framework of the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” said the US, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in an announcement issued Monday.
The OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev, on Monday echoed the Minsk Group chairmen’s response and emphasized that the elections would not impact the peace process in a statement issued in the capital Astana.