Incumbent President Bako Sahakyan has retained his post winning Thursday’s election in Nagorno Karabakh by taking 47,085 votes -- 66.7.
Runner up General Vitali Balasanyan got 32.5 percent of votes (22, 966). Arkadi Soghomyan received 0.8 percent or 594 votes.
Experts point out a new peculiarity in Karabakh elections – a signifcantly decreased gap between the winner’s votes and those of his main opponent. In 2007, Bako Sahakyan won by 85.12 percent, while his main opponent Masis Mailyan, by official data, scored only 12.53 percent. So, 80-90-percent victories were considered to be the norm in Karabakh, however, things have changed and “the bar is lower” now and Sahakyan has cleared it with 67 percent, with his opponent practically taking one third of the votes.
Balasanyan, a Member of Parliament, had promised to become oppositional should he lose in the elections. There is no opposition in Karabakh, but Balasanyan’s team which now has Mailyan (currently chairing NKR Public Council on Security and Foreign Affairs ) and Eduard Aghabekyan (the only oppositional mayor of Stepanakert, 2004-2007) and a number of public figures joining it, can become true opposition.
The lack of an opposition was actually the reason why two years ago the Freedom House organization ranked Karabakh “not free”, removing it from the list of “partly free” countries.
And besides, the traditionally negative approach of the international community towards elections in Karabakh has seen some changes. Despite the fact that Baku and Ankara made rather critical statements that they do not recognize the elections, Russia, France and the USA refrained from making any statements. Instead, Georgia did through its Foreign Ministry, stating that it “wishes to reaffirm the Georgian government's unequivocal support for Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and does not recognize the so-called "presidential elections" which were held in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
European Parliament members Ewald Johann Stadler from Austria and Daniel Walder Stup from Netherlands observed the elections. The observer mission from Europe included also experts from Bulgaria and Poland. Karabakh is also hosting members of the House of Commons of Canada, who emphasized that although Azerbaijan was against their visit, they wanted to witness the establishment of democracy in Nagorno Karabakh. Russian MPs are also in Karabakh. Russian Liberal-Democrat Party representative in the Russian State Duma Alexander Balberov stated: “The people have a right to decide which country to live in and under whose leadership, and which way of development to take.”
A total of around 80 international observers were watching the voting, from the USA, Russia, Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland, Cyprus, Hungary, Bulgaria, Argentine, Uruguay and others, as well a delegation of officials from Armenia. A few dozen foreign reporters was covering the elections.
The nine-member Armenian parliamentary delegation consisting of both oppositional and pro-government deputies, has given the highest appraisal of the voting. Other observers, too, gave high marks.