BY LUSINE MUSAYELIAN
STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)—Voters in Nagorno-Karabakh will go to the polls on September 18 to elect local self-government bodies of the capital Stepanakert and more than 200 other mostly rural communities.
Three individuals applied for official registration as candidates for the post of Stepanakert mayor in time for Wednesday’s deadline for their nomination. The town’s incumbent pro-government mayor, Vazgen Mikaelian, is not among them.
Mikaelian, in office since 2008, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that he will not seek reelection because he wants to “let others work.” He did not elaborate.
Suren Grigorian, chief of the Karabakh government staff, is widely seen as Mikaelian’s most likely successor. His nomination was announced at the last minute.
Grigorian will be challenged by Eduard Aghabekian, who served as Stepanakert’s mayor from 2004-2008, and Marat Hasratian, a member of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s parliament. Hasratian also works as a lawyer at the Karabakh ministry of social affairs.
According to the local election commission, 41 other candidates want to vie for the 15 seats on Stepanakert’s municipal council.
The commission has not yet released any data on the number of candidates in 208 other Karabakh towns and villages that will elect their administrations and local councils next month.
Azerbaijan is certain to condemn the upcoming elections. It has said in the past that it will consider any elections held in Karabakh illegitimate as long as the Karabakh’s Azerbaijani minority displaced by the 1991-1994 is unable to take part in them.
Armenia, by contrast, has strongly defended the Karabakh Armenians’ right to regularly hold presidential, parliamentary and local elections before a resolution of the conflict with Azerbaijan.