By Hrant Aleksanian in Stepanakert
The political party of Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkady Ghukasian claimed on Thursday victory in the previous day’s local elections, saying that its candidates won the top executive posts in at least 140 out of 223 towns and villages, including the capital Stepanakert.
The chairman and campaign manager of the Democratic Artsakh Union (ZhAM), Ashot Ghulian, told RFE/RL that the ruling party achieved “excellent results in almost all regions” of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
According to preliminary official results released by the Central Election Commission, ZhAM candidate Hamik Avanesian was elected the new mayor of Stepanakert with approximately 53 percent of the vote. His main rival, Maxim Mirzoyan of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), got only 30 percent.
Dashnaktsutyun came in a distant second in the overall voting as well, doing worse than it had expected. The local branch of the pan-Armenian nationalist party won control of over 20 communities – mostly villages in the southern Hadrut district, the traditional Dashnak stronghold. A dozen of other newly elected village chiefs were endorsed by the party despite not being affiliated with it.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders declined to comment on the freedom and fairness of the elections. They said their assessment of the polls will contained in a special report to be issued in the coming days. Still, a CEC member representing Dashnaktsutyun, Sergei Shahverdian, complained about the unauthorized presence of government officials at the polling stations in Stepanakert on the voting day.
The CEC figures show that at least 60 percent of all eligible voters took part in the ballot, condemned as illegitimate by Azerbaijan and several international organizations. The Council of Europe has warned the Karabakh authorities that the elections might have a negative impact on the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. The United States, however, has said they will not affect the peace process.