By Hrant Aleksanian in Stepanakert
Nagorno-Karabakh’s new parliament held its first session on Thursday, electing its leadership following an apparent power-sharing deal cut by its main factions loyal to the unrecognized republic’s president, Arkady Ghukasian.
The new speaker of the local assembly, Ashot Ghulian, is the leader of the pro-Ghukasian Democratic Party of Artsakh (AZhK) that won at 12 out of the 33 parliament seats in the June 19 election. Ghulian resigned as Karabakh’s minister of education and culture before taking up the new post. He had previously served as foreign minister.
In his acceptance speech, Ghulian pledged to adhere to “good traditions of the previous parliament” that was also controlled by Ghukasian. The parliament’s deputy speaker, Rudik Hyusnunts, is a senior member of the pro-establishment Azat Hayrenik (Free Fatherland) party that finished second with 10 seats.
Other Azat Hayrenik deputies, including the party’s leader Arayik Harutiunian, were elected as chairmen of two of the Karabakh National Assembly six standing committees. Three other committees will be headed by AZhK members.
A virtual absence of debate at the opening parliament session underscored decreased opposition presence in the Stepanakert legislature. Karabakh’s main opposition group, an alliance of the local branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Movement-88 party, got only three seats, according to official vote results which it rejected as fraudulent.
But Ghukasian insisted that the election, monitored by over a hundred representatives of foreign non-governmental organizations, was “truly free, fair and transparent.” “I consider any attempt to cast shadow on the elections to be groundless and inappropriate,” he told the new parliament. “It is impossible not to see something which is obvious.”
The Karabakh leader also urged lawmakers to be “active” in their work, saying that would make his government more efficient.