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Nagorno-Karabakh: Nationalist Party Loses In Local Elections

By Emil Danielyan/Marcel Petrosian

Nagorno-Karabakh, 28 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Voters in Nagorno-Karabakh went to polls on Sunday in first local elections since the region broke away from Azerbaijan ten years ago.

At stake were posts of heads of administration in some 150 towns and villages along with their legislative bodies.

According to figures released by Nagorno-Karabakh's Central Election Commission (CEC), turn-out exceeded 80 percent in rural areas but was only 51 percent in the capital Stepanakert.

With 87 percent of the vote, Karen Babayan, the unrecognized republic's former interior minister, was elected Stepanakert's mayor. His opponent, Georgi Petrosian of the nationalist Dashnak party's (HHD) Karabakh organization, got only 12 percent.

During the election campaign, Babayan enjoyed the backing of his brother, Defense Minister Samvel Babayan.

According to official results, an HHD candidate also lost a mayoral election in the southern town of Hadrut, one of its strongholds.

The first-round voting revealed no winner in the town of Shusha where another Dashnak candidate and a non-partisan candidate will face each other in a run-off.

The HHD, which has branches throughout the world, dominated Nagorno-Karabakh politics in the early 1990s. The party's in Armenia is at present a major ally of Armenian President Robert Kocharian, himself a native of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The current leadership of the Armenian-populated enclave represents no political party.

The elections have been condemned by Azerbaijan which views the disputed region as a renegade province occupied by Armenia.

There has been no reaction yet from the international community, which had condemned previous presidential and parliamentary elections in Nagorno-Karabakh on the grounds that its Azerbaijani minority which had fled the war was unable to participate.