By Karine KalantarianVoters in Nagorno-Karabakh will go to the polls on July 19 to elect the disputed region’s new president, it was announced on Wednesday.
The date of the presidential election was set by the parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR).
Arkady Ghukasian, the NKR’s current president who has been in power since 1997, repeated earlier this year that he will not be seeking a third term in office despite what he called numerous requests ordinary people, prominent public figures and unnamed “famous foreign diplomats.”
A Karabakh law bars him from running for a third term. Commentators in Stepanakert and Yerevan had suggested that Ghukasian could use the adoption of Karabakh’s first-ever constitution in a referendum last December to circumvent this restriction by declaring a new countdown of presidential tenures.
In a February 21 statement, Ghukasian claimed that the NKR constitution does allow him to remain in power. But he said he has decided to step down because he believes that would make Karabakh’s political system more democratic and improve its image abroad. The 49-year-old former journalist has so far avoided endorsing anyone for the presidency.
Among the likely election frontrunners are Bako Sahakian, chief of a local security service, and parliament speaker Ashot Ghulian.