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Yerevan Hails ‘Free Elections’ In Karabakh


Nagorno-Karabakh - The main government buildings in Stepanakert, September 7, 2019.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian praised on Monday local elections held in Nagorno-Karabakh at the weekend, saying that they were “free, fair and competitive.”

Voters in Karabakh elected the mayors of the capital Stepanakert and other Karabakh towns and villages as well as local councils. The mayoral race in Stepanakert was tight, with five candidates participating in it.

One of them, Davit Sargsian, was elected mayor with 36.4 percent of the vote, according to official results. The city’s incumbent mayor, Suren Grigorian, did not seek reelection.

“I congratulate the heroic people of Artsakh on the holding of free, fair and competitive elections of local government bodies,” Pashinian wrote on Facebook. “I also congratulate all elected candidates and wish them fruitful work for the benefit of the homeland and the people.”

Pashinian also commended election observers from Karabakh and Armenia, saying that they contributed to the proper conduct of the polls.

Two of those vote monitoring missions were deployed by the Yerevan-based Union of Informed Citizens (UIC) and Transparency International’s affiliate organization in Armenia. At Pashinian’s urging, the Armenian government allocated 33.7 million drams ($70,000) to them for that purpose on August 22. The premier said the funding is part of his government’s efforts to “create additional safeguards” for democracy in Karabakh.

Observers representing the two non-governmental organizations did not report serious irregularities.

“Our monitoring team did not witness obvious and deliberate violations that could influence the course of the elections or cast shadow on their results,” said Vahram Tokmajian, head of the UIC’s Stepanakert office. He also said Karabakh election officials cooperated with the monitors and swiftly responded to “issues” in some polling stations reported by them.

Karabakh’s Central Election Commission said, for its part, that it has received no reports of serious fraud during and after Sunday’s voting. It reported that nearly two-thirds of Karabakh’s 103,000 eligible voters participated in the polls.

Karabakh will hold presidential and parliamentary elections early next year. Its incumbent president, Bako Sahakian, is not eligible for another term in office. He has been in power since 2007.

Neither Sahakian nor Pashinian has endorsed any potential presidential candidates so far. Speaking at an August 5 rally in Stepanakert, Pashinian said the Armenian government will act as a “guarantor” of the freedom and fairness of the 2020 polls.

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