STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–The people of Nagorno-Karabakh went to the polls Sunday to elect heads of administration in some 150 towns and villages along with their legislative bodies–in first local elections since the region’s independence. ten years ago.
Figures released by Nagorno-Karabakh’s Central Election Commission–indicated turn-out exceeded 80 percent in rural areas but was only 51 percent in the capital Stepanakert–where the unrecognized republic’s former interior minister beat his sole rival by a huge margin.
With 87 percent of the vote–Karen Babayan won the election of Stepanakert mayor–while the second candidate–Georgi Petrosian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Karabakh organization–got only 12 percent–the CEC said on Monday. During the election campaign–Babayan enjoyed the backing of his powerful brother–Defense Minister Samvel Babayan.
The RFE/RL correspondent in Stepanakert reports that the ballot has proceeded smoothly except a statement by the Petrosian campaign on the eve of the voting saying that the Nagorno-Karabakh state television could not be impartial as its chief director is one of Babayan’s proxies. No other complaints have been lodged so far.
According to official results–an ARF candidate also lost a mayoral election in the southern town of Hadrut–one of its strongholds. The first-round voting revealed no winner in the town of Shoushi where another ARF candidate and a non-partisan rival will face each other in a run-off.
The elections have been condemned by Azerbaijan that views the disputed region as a renegade province occupied by Armenia. There has been no reaction yet from the international community which had condemned previous presidential and parliamentary elections in Nagorno-Karabakh.