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Nagorno-Karabakh: Region Gears Up For Presidential Election

President Arkady Ghukasian has endorsed the head of the region's National Security Service (file photo) (epa) April 26, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Two candidates have announced their intention to participate in the July 19 presidential elections in the unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, and at least one more is expected to do so.

Baho Sahakian, who currently heads the republic's National Security Service, and Vanya Ovanesian, a professor at Artsakh State University, reportedly announced their candidacies on April 20, the first day of nominations. Deputy Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian, who in early April declared his readiness to participate in the ballot, has not yet been formally nominated.

Presidential Endorsement

Incumbent Arkady Ghukasian, who is barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term, on April 20 effectively endorsed Sahakian.

Sahakian also has the support of Ghukasian's Democratic Artsakh Movement (ZhAM), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on April 20. And, according to opinion polls cited by the daily "Azat Artsakh" on April 16, he enjoys greater popularity than other prospective candidates.

The ZhAM is reportedly trying to persuade three other parties to throw their weight behind Sahakian's candidacy -- the junior partner in the coalition government, Azat Hayrenik (Free Fatherland); and two opposition parties, the Karabakh chapter of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutiun (HHD), and the Movement-88 party.

Those four parties have issued a statement positively assessing Ghukasian's track record since his election as president in September 1998 to succeed Robert Kocharian, who was elected Armenian president in March 1998, reported on April 19.

They further affirmed their readiness to back a single presidential candidate capable of tackling the problems the republic still faces; namely, achieving international recognition of the NKR as an independent sovereign state, rendering its leadership structure more democratic, and improving the socioeconomic and demographic situations.

The joint statement did not, however, identify any specific candidate as meeting those requirements. And Artur Mosiyan, a leading member of the Karabakh HHD chapter, declined on April 20 to confirm to RFE/RL that his party will support Sahakian.

Ballot Absentees

In February, it was rumored that former Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Artur Aghabekian would be the HHD candidate for Karabakh president, but Aghabekian subsequently registered as a party list candidate for the HHD in the May 12 Armenian parliamentary election.

Boris Arushanian, chairman of the small extra-parliamentary Armenakan party, told journalists in Stepanakert on April 10 that his party will not nominate its own candidate as it has neither the resource nor the influence to do so, but will support a "decent, strong-willed candidate with professional expertise" and whose election program is most compatible with his party's goals, reported.

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