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Nagorno-Karabakh Holds Elections

Voters case ballots in Nagorno-Karabakh's parliamentary elections on May 23.
Nagorno-Karabakh voters went to the polls on May 23 for legislative elections in the disputed breakaway region.

The enclave, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, broke away from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, prompting a civil war that left some 30,000 dead.

The area, which is controlled by Armenia, remains in dispute despite years of failed efforts by international mediators and a ceasefire agreement signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan over a decade ago.

The international community does not recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. On May 21, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called the elections illegal and said the event "should not prejudice the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

Nevertheless, the president of the self-proclaimed republic, Bako Sahakian, on May 23 said the elections reflect the region's commitment to democracy.

"It is pleasure to live in a country that supports democratic values. And democracy is a value for us, along with independence and sovereignty," Sahakian said.

Five-Year Term

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission described the vote as a "new election farce" and urged that it not be monitored by election observers.

Nevertheless, some observers came. One of them, Vyacheslav Tsugba, deputy speaker of the de facto parliament in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region, says everything went smoothly at the polls.

"We were in three to four regions; we have visited dozens of precincts. People are in a good mood. There were no complaints from candidates or parties," Tsugba said.

Four parties are running for 33 seats in de facto legislature, which is elected to a five-year term. The pro-government Free Fatherland party and the Democratic Party of Artsakh expected to retain control. Most candidates and parties support an independent Nagorno-Karabakh.

The elections come just a month after the collapse of an agreement normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey.

Armenia on April 22 suspended its ratification of the agreement, citing problems with Turkish demands that it settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict dividing Armenia and Turkish ally Azerbaijan.

Yerevan says the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was not part of its initial agreement with Ankara. Turkey says it never planned to stop calling for the resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh.

With agency material
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