By Karine Kalantarian
The leader of a small Armenian opposition party, Hrant Khachatrian, applied on Friday for registration as a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Khachatrian, who leads the nationalist Union for Constitutional Rights (SIM), told RFE/RL that his proxies submitted all necessary documents to the Central Election Commission in Stepanakert earlier in the day.
The move creates a major political dilemma for the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) which is facing no serious opposition in the run-up to the August 11 vote. A Yerevan newspaper quoted the local CEC chairman as saying this week that Khachatrian is not eligible to run for president because he is not an NKR citizen.
But official Stepanakert’s refusal to register him as a candidate could revive the debate over the legality of Robert Kocharian’s participation in the 1998 presidential elections in Armenia. The alliance of 13 Armenian opposition parties, including the SIM, would likely use it to embarrass Kocharian by challenging his legitimacy.
Armenian law requires presidential candidates to be citizens of Armenia and to have “permanently” resided in it for the ten preceding years. The Armenian interior ministry had officially certified Kocharian’s ten-year residency in 1998, prompting strong protests from his opponents. But many supporters of Kocharian, who was born and lived in Karabakh until 1997, argued that the disputed region should be considered a de facto part of Armenia.
The SIM backed this argument at the time and now believes that its leader must be allowed to stand in the Karabakh elections by the same token.