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Dashnaktsutyun Joins Karabakh Presidential Race


Nagorno-Karabakh -- A rally at Renaissance Square in Stepanakert, August 5, 2019.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has decided to field its own candidate in Nagorno-Karabakh’s forthcoming presidential election after failing to reach an agreement with any of the major contenders.

The candidate, Davit Ishkhanian, is the leader of the pan-Armenian party’s Karabakh branch. His nomination was announced on Sunday.

Ishkhanian thus joined the already crowded pool of candidates seeking to succeed Bako Sahakian as Karabakh president in the election due in March or early April. The vote is expected to be the most democratic, competitive and unpredictable in the Armenian-populated territory’s history.

The main presidential candidates are Karabakh’s current parliament speaker Ashot Ghulian, Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian, former Prime Minister Arayik Harutiunian and retired army General Vitaly Balasanian.

Ishkhanian said on Monday that Dashnaktsutyun has negotiated with these and other contenders in a bid to hammer out an agreement on a “common candidate” who would run for president “within the framework of a common agenda.” The talks “did not end in success,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Ishkhanian would not be drawn on his and his party’s campaign platform. “I think that it is too early to talk about that,” he said.

Dashnaktsutyun holds 6 seats in Karabakh’s 32-member parliament and has largely supported Sahakian during his 12-year rule. The party, which is in opposition to Armenia’s current government, favors a hard line on the conflict with Azerbaijan. Scores of its members from Armenia and Karabakh had participated in the 1991-1994 Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

Neither Sahakian nor Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has endorsed any of the presidential hopefuls so far. Pashinian has stressed instead the importance of ensuing that the upcoming is free and fair.

Pashinian met with virtually all main candidates when he visited Stepanakert earlier this month. He told them that his government will do its best to contribute to the proper conduct of the ballot.

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