By Astghik BedevianArkady Ghukasian has effectively lent support to plans by the chief of his security service to succeed him as president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), it emerged on Friday.
A senior member of Ghukasian’s Democratic Artsakh Movement (ZhAM) party said the governing party has decided to back Bako Sahakian, chief of the NKR’s National Security Service, during a presidential election scheduled for July 19.
“The Democratic Party of Artsakh has approved the idea of supporting Bako Sahakian’s candidacy,” Vahram Atanesian told RFE/RL by phone.
Other officials in Stepanakert said Sahakian has already filed for registration as an election candidate. Masis Mayilian, the Armenian-controlled territory’s deputy foreign minister, is widely expected to be his main challenger.
According to Atanesian, the ZhAM is now trying to get the three other parties represented in the Karabakh parliament to also endorse Sahakian. One of those parties, Azat Hayrenik, is a junior partner in Ghukasian’s coalition cabinet. The two others, the Karabakh branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Movement-88 party, are in opposition.
A local Dashnaktsutyun leader, Artur Mosiyan, confirmed that his party is holding talks with the ZhAM on the issue but would not say whether it is prepared to support the Ghukasian-backed candidate. Dashnaktsutyun issued a statement earlier this month harshly criticizing the Karabakh government’s policies.
The Karabakh parliament set the election date on April 4 after Ghukasian, in power since 1997, reaffirmed his decision not seek a third term in office.