Artsakh Elections Records 72.7% Voter Turnout, Results Due On April 1.

Today, 76,471 Artsakh citizens (72.7% of eligible citizens) hit the polls to cast their ballots in the parliamentary and presidential elections in the Republic of Artsakh, per Srbuhi Arzumanyan, Head of the Central Electoral Commission.

A total of 103,663 citizens were eligible to vote. The elections were monitored by 963 observers; with 231 journalists covering the polls.

The preliminary election results are set to be summed up by 8 pm on April 1.

A total of 14 candidates are running for President: Kristin Balayan, Vitaly Balasanyan, Sergey Amiryan, David Babayan, Bella Lalayan, Arayik Harutyunyan, Hayk Khanumyan, Davit Ishkhanyan, Vahan Badasyan, Masis Mayilyan, Ashot Ghulian, Ruslan Israyelyan, Ashot Dadayan and Melsik Poghosyan. None of candidates were openly endorsed by current President Bako Sahakian or the Government of Armenia during election campaign.

12 political parties were also vying for the 33 open seats in the National Assembly of Artsakh: National Revival, United Fatherland, Independence Generation, ARF Dashnaktsutyun, Revolutionary Party of Artsakh, Free Fatherland bloc, Justice Party, Democratic Party of Artsakh, Unified Armenia Party,  Conservative Party of Artsakh, Communist Party of Nagorno Karabakh and New Artsakh bloc.

Arzumanyan presented the voter turnout per region: Based on her information, 27,893 voters (70.6%) cast their votes in the city of Stepanakert, 9611 voters (79.4%) — in Askeran region, 6,707 voters (76.3%) — in Hadrut region, 9,942 voters (73.3%) — in Martakert region, 12,657 voters (72.5%) — in Martuni region, 1,600 voters (74.8%) — in Shahumyan region, 2,853 voters (71.7%) — in Shushi region, 4,799 voters (67.5%) — in Kashatagh region and 409 voters (52.2%) — from the city of Yerevan, Armenia.

The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Artsakh provided a total of 80,000 masks and 160,000 gloves for citizens voting in Tuesday’s presidential and parliamentary elections in the Republic of Artsakh. A total of 5,200 masks and 10,400 gloves were also provided to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC). All 282 polling stations and 10 offices were disinfected and provided with antimicrobial disinfectants.

The elections went ahead despite serious concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in Artsakh. The authorities in Stepanakert, which have recorded no coronavirus cases so far, dismissed calls for their postponement made by several presidential candidates and prominent public figures in Armenia. They said that precautionary measures taken by them will minimize health risks. Critics are especially worried about the arrival of hundreds of election observers from Armenia where the number coronavirus cases surpassed 500 on Tuesday morning. The authorities counter that the observers as well as Armenian journalists underwent COVID-19 tests just before traveling to Artsakh. All other people from Armenia were temporarily banned last week from entering Artsakh, per Azatutuyun.

Artsakh broke away from Azerbaijani rule in 1991 but has not been formally recognized as an independent state by any country since then. In a statement released on Tuesday, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said they run counter to Azerbaijani and international law. “The illegal regime installed by Armenia in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan is the product of aggression, ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination, and it is led and controlled by Armenia,” said the statement.

U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group said, meanwhile, that they “have taken note of the so-called general elections” and “recognize the role of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh in deciding its future” as part of a future resolution of the Karabakh conflict. “The Co-Chairs note, however, that Nagorno-Karabakh is not recognized as an independent and sovereign state by any of the Co-Chair countries or any other country,” they said in a joint statement. “Accordingly, the Co-Chairs do not accept the results of these ‘elections’ as affecting the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh and stress that the results in no way prejudge the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiations to bring a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” The mediators, who regularly visit Stepanakert and meet with Artsakh’s leaders during their tours of the conflict zone, had issued similar statements on past Artsakh elections.

The European Union also reacted to the Karabakh elections, saying that it “does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework within which they are being held.” “This event cannot prejudice the determination of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiation process,” said a spokesman for the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

Armenia defended the holding of the elections. It argued that OSCE member states had adopted in 1992 a document saying that “elected representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh” should also participate in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. “Elections must be held to have elected representatives,” read a statement by the Foreign Ministry of Armenia.

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