By Karine Kalantarian in Stepanakert
The frontrunner in the unfolding presidential election campaign in Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday expressed his delight at the fact that his candidacy is supported by the disputed region’s main political parties.
Bako Sahakian, who headed the local National Security Service until last week, was handpicked earlier this year as the preferred successor of Karabakh’s outgoing President Arkady Ghukasian and is tipped to win the presidential ballot scheduled for July 19. Sahakian’s victory became even more likely last month after he was jointly endorsed by Ghukasian’s Democratic Artsakh Party and the three other parties represented in the Karabakh parliament.
Two of those parties are in opposition to the current authorities in Stepanakert. One of them, the Karabakh branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), has been particularly vocal in its criticism of Ghukasian’s policies. Dashnaktsutyun was earlier expected to support Masis Mayilian, Sahakian’s main challenger and Karabakh’s longtime deputy foreign minister.
“I see nothing illogical in such support by the parties,” Sahakian told RFE/RL in an interview. “We began the movement [for Karabakh’s reunification with Armenia] together, we went to war together, and are now rebuilding our country together. I think it will be easier for us to jointly build a country we dream about.”
“I am proud of such treatment and believe that we will manage to jointly overcome all the difficulties confronting us,” added the 47-year-old lawyer.
Sahakian also said that the Karabakh Armenians’ position on the conflict with Azerbaijan will not change in the event of his victory in the election. He did not go into details, saying only that he supports Ghukasian’s persistent demands for official Stepanakert’s direct involvement in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
Among the five presidential candidates registered by the Central Election Commission is also Armen Abgarian, who was once the right-hand man of Samvel Babayan, Karabakh’s Yerevan-based former military leader. Abgarian’s decision to run for president fueled speculation that Babayan, who is an arch-foe of Ghukasian, is keen to restore his political clout in Karabakh. The two men were spotted sitting in a Yerevan café last week.
In a statement on Wednesday, Babayan dismissed such suggestions as “disinformation.” He said he does not support any of the presidential hopefuls.
(Photolur photo: Bako Sahakian.)