Bako Sahakian, the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, was sworn in for a second five-year term in office on Friday nearly two months after winning a relatively tight presidential election.
Sahakian took the oath of office at a ceremony attended by President Serzh Sarkisian, other Armenian and Karabakh officials as well as his main election challenger, the retired General Vitaly Balasanian.
According to official vote results, Sahakian garnered 66.7 percent of the vote, compared with 32.5 percent polled by Balasanian. The latter questioned the official vote tally, saying that the election was “free but not fair” because of the incumbent’s heavy use of government resources.
The Karabakh vote was condemned as illegal by Azerbaijan. The European Union and some countries, including Georgia and Turkey, also criticized it.
But U.S., Russian and French diplomats trying to broker a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict effectively justified the conduct of the ballot. They said although their respective nations do not recognize the Armenian-populated territory as an independent state, they “acknowledge the need for the de facto authorities in [Stepanakert] to try to organize democratically the public life of their population with such a procedure.”
In a speech at the inauguration ceremony, Sahakian pledged to continue to seek international recognition of Karabakh’s de facto secession from Azerbaijan. He also warned Baku against attempting to regain control of the territory by force. “Our independence and freedom are exceptional values, and any encroachment upon them will get a fitting rebuff,” he said.
Sahakian also promised that he will strive to build a “democratic state based on human rights and liberties” and will “take into consideration all opinions and viewpoints” during his rule.