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Former Security Chief Wins Nagorno-Karabakh Vote

Bako Sahakian (AFP) July 20, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Election officials in the unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh say the former head of the region's security service has been elected president.

According to preliminary results made public today by the self-proclaimed republic's election commission, Bako Sahakian won the July 19 presidential ballot with 85.4 percent of the vote.

His main challenger, Deputy Foreign Minister Mais Maylian, won 12.2 percent. None of the three other candidates polled more than 1.5 percent. Voter turnout was 77.36 percent.

The Central Election Commission has reportedly pledged to examine 19 separate complaints of fraud submitted by Maylian.

Final results of the election are expected to be released later today.

Unrecognized Ballot

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the region from 1988 until a 1994 cease-fire was brokered. The conflict has been frozen ever since, and negotiations continue on its future status.

Sahakian has said that he seeks full independence from Azerbaijan.

No country currently recognizes the independence of the self-declared, predominantly ethnic-Armenian republic within Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has condemned the elections as illegal and illegitimate.

Likewise, no international organizations, including GUAM and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), consider the elections to be legitimate.

The European Union's Portuguese presidency issued a statement today saying the EU does not recognize the legitimacy of the elections, nor the independence of the region.

The statement said the poll "should not have any impact on the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

Earlier, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau on European and Eurasian Affairs, Chase Beamer, reiterated on July 19 that the United States respects Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, According to Azerbaijan's Turan news agency.

He said the elections will not have an effect on the peace talks and said the United States will continue to mediate a resolution of the frozen conflict through the OSCE Minsk Group.

Ties To Armenia

Sahakian, 46, was born in Stepanakert. After serving in the Soviet army he worked for nine years in a Stepanakert factory, then in 1990 he joined the unofficial Karabakh Self-Defense Army, of which he became a deputy commander.

From 1997-99 he served as an aide to Armenian Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who is now prime minister and the frontrunner to succeed Robert Kocharian as Armenian president next year.

In 1999, Sahakian was named Karabakh interior minister, and two years later, National Security Service head.

He will replace Arkady Ghukasian, who held the presidential post for two five-year terms.

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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