STEPANAKERT—Voters in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic came out in droves to take part in the fifth presidential elections of the country. According to Karabakh’s Central Electoral Commission, more than 73 percent of registered voters turned out by the time polls had closed at 8 p.m. local time.
The Central Electoral Commission will officially announce the results as early as Friday.
President Bako Sahakian, who is seeking a second term in office voted in Stepanakert, saying that he voter “for building a strong, independent and united state.
He is being challenged by General Vitaly Balasanian, who voted in Askeran and said that if elected he will work hard to attain international recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Some 110 international observers converged on the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to monitor the vote, including observers from Armenia, former Soviet republics, the EU and the US. The Western observers were there on behalf of NGOs and did not represent any government.
One of the American observers was former Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch who arrived in Artsakh Wednesday.
“I congratulate the government of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic for their commitment to a transparent and fair election. I look forward to participating in this democratic process,” Lynch said before leaving for Artsakh.
As expected Azerbaijan condemned the vote, saying that the elections were not legitimate and reiterated its call for “withdrawal of Armenian occupation from seized territories.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said the aim of the election was to conceal “Armenia’s policy of annexing Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry claimed that the upcoming elections in Karabakh ran counter to OSCE principles and UN Security Council’s decisions.
“Turkey, which always supports Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, strongly condemns these illegal ‘elections’ and will not acknowledge its results,” said the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement, adding that “The continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh is a serious obstacle to stability and peace in the South Caucasus.”
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said that the EU did not recognize the elections.
“These ‘elections’ should not prejudice the determination of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh in the negotiated general framework of the peaceful settlement of the conflict,” said Ashton.