By Emil Danielyan
Arkady Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), insisted on Wednesday that he will step down after completing his second term in office this summer, angrily rebutting media claims to the contrary.
Ghukasian, in power since 1997, announced last October that he will not stand in the next presidential election which is expected to take place this July. He cited the need to boost Karabakh’s democratic image abroad as well as a law that bars him from seeking a third five-year term.
Still, commentators in Stepanakert and Yerevan have suggested that the adoption of the disputed region’s first-ever constitution in a controversial December referendum allows Ghukasian to circumvent this restriction by declaring a new countdown of presidential tenures. Some Armenian newspapers have persistently claimed that he is bent on holding on to power.
Ghukasian condemned such speculation as an “incurable illness” which he said is damaging Karabakh’s democratic credentials and international reputation. He said that the NKR constitution does allow him to seek a third term and that he has been asked to again run for president by many ordinary people, prominent public figures and unnamed “famous foreign diplomats.”
“But a president respecting himself can not say one thing today and another tomorrow,” added the Karabakh leader. “While expressing my deep gratitude to those citizens of our republic and foreign friends who … sincerely want to continue to see me in the post of president, I once again declare that I do not intend to nominate my candidacy for the NKR presidency.”
Ghukasian also reiterated his earlier statements that his exit will facilitate international recognition of Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan.
The 49-year-old former journalist has yet to indicate what he plans to do after leaving office. In an interview with RFE/RL last year, he said he will not follow the example of other prominent Karabakh Armenians like Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian and continue his political activities in Armenia.