A retired army general who was the main opposition candidate in Nagorno-Karabakh’s recent presidential election announced on Thursday that he is setting up an opposition group to continue to challenge the current government in Stepanakert.
“During my pre-election campaign many of our citizens set me the task of forming a political force and continuing the struggle regardless of the [election] result,” Vitali Balasanian said in a statement. “Now is the time to do that.”
Balasanian expressed confidence that his “institutional structure” will enjoy strong popular support because he believes many Karabakh Armenians are already willing to join it. He said he will spend the next few weeks touring various Karabakh districts and discussing his organization’s “basic principles” with supporters.
“Because of the existing vicious practices, corruption and inefficient governance, most of our national wealth is now concentrated in the hands of a handful of people. Our aim is to establish social justice and make the national wealth accessible to all people,” Balasanian added in a renewed attack on Bako Sahakian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR).
According to official results of the July 19 election, Sahakian won a second term in office with 66.7 percent of the vote, while Balasanian got 32.5 percent. The general, who played a major role in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan, questioned the official tally, saying that the vote was “free but not fair.”
Balasanian, 53, is a member of the NKR parliament. He is not affiliated with any of the three political parties holding seats there. They all support Sahakian and are represented in his cabinet.
The creation of a major opposition party in Karabakh could thus significantly redraw the local political landscape. Balasanian said on Thursday that the presidential ballot marked the new beginning of “new democratic processes” in the disputed territory.
Karabakh’s next parliamentary election is scheduled for 2014.