KARABAKH ELECTS NEW PRESIDENT.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 162
According to returns issued yesterday, Arkady Gukasian has won Karabakh’s presidential election, held on September 1. Gukasian, foreign minister of the unrecognized republic, received almost 90 percent of the votes cast; the turnout was 85 percent. International organizations ignored the election because of Karabakh’s unrecognized status. However, several Russian Duma and French parliamentary deputies monitored the election and pronounced it free and fair.
The election was necessitated by the appointment of Karabakh’s president, Robert Kocharian, as Prime Minister of Armenia in March. Since that time, Karabakh’s prime minister, Leonard Petrosian, has acted as president in Stepanakert, but he did not enter the race for that post. Kocharian, elected in December 1994, was Karabakh’s first popularly elected president. Yesterday the republic marked the seventh anniversary of the proclamation of its independence.
Gukasian, born in 1957 and trained as a journalist, was jailed in 1990 by the Soviet authorities for a series of articles which advocated the separation of the then-Autonomous Region of Mountain Karabakh from Azerbaijan. He had served as de facto foreign minister from 1993 to his election. Gukasian’s candidacy for president was supported by the Karabakh military; by Armenia’s leadership, including Kocharian, who remains legally a Karabakh resident; and by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaksutiun, the main opposition party. It is banned in Armenia but is a legal and influential party in Karabakh.
The president-elect’s program focused on strengthening Karabakh’s defense capability and achieving international recognition of the republic and of its independence from Azerbaijan, as well as on maintaining close relations with Armenia. Gukasian and the two other presidential candidates repeatedly stressed their consensus on these and related points. They also favored a "socially-oriented" economy.
Russia, the U.S., Germany, and the OSCE have issued statements describing the election as inherently invalid owing to the undetermined legal status of Karabakh. The statements reaffirmed that Karabakh’s status is the subject of negotiations within the framework of the OSCE. Azerbaijan condemned the election and cited with emphasis OSCE documents envisaging autonomy for Karabakh within Azerbaijan. However, Baku’s reaction showed far more restraint than it had in December 1994 to Kocharian’s election.
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