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Bako Sahakian, the president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), won a second term in office in an election which his main challenger described on Friday as “free but not fair.”

Official results of Thursday’s election showed Sahakian garnering 66.7 percent of the vote. Vitali Balasanian, the main opposition candidate and a retired army general, got 32.5 percent, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC) in Stepanakert.

The CEC also said that more than 73 percent of Karabakh’s 98,000 or so eligible voters cast their ballots.

Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian, himself a native and a former military leader of Karabakh, was quick to congratulate Sahakian. “Your convincing victory in the elections reaffirmed the Artsakh people’s historical choice and irreversible course towards political freedom, democracy and a society based on national and human values,” Sarkisian said in a letter.

By contrast, Balasanian refused to congratulate the Karabakh leader, voicing “certain reservations” about the official vote tally. “The elections were free but not fair,” he said in a statement.

“During the entire pre-election campaign and on election day pressure was exerted on the people and the administrative resources were fully directed at ensuring voting for the incumbent president,” charged the former deputy commander of Karabakh’s Armenia-backed army.

Citing his “good result” in the contest, Balasanian also announced he will set up a new “political structure” soon. “One of the key aims of that structure will be the protection of our citizens’ rights,” he said without going into details.

The vote was monitored by at least 110 observers from Armenia, other former Soviet republics and Western countries. The non-Armenian observers, among them three members of the European Parliament, represented non-governmental organizations or acted in a personal capacity. They reported no major vote irregularities as of Friday evening.
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