"There is a risk of internal clashes": on elections in unrecognized NKR
Presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh
On Saturday, September 9, presidential elections will be held in the parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Four of the five parliamentary forces – Free Homeland, Ardarutyun (Justice), Dashnaktsutyun and the Democratic Party of Artsakh – have nominated State Minister Samvel Shahramanyan. Their votes are enough to elect a president, limited to one round.
The “United Motherland” faction, the second largest in number of mandates in the local parliament, nominated its leader, Samvel Babayan, for the post of president. However, “the application and the documents attached to it were returned,” the National Assembly reports. The decision is explained by the fact that the necessary document was not submitted. It is about the certificate that Babayan “has been permanently residing and is a citizen of the Republic of Artsakh only for the last ten years.”
Former Defense Army Commander Samvel Babayan announced that United Homeland would not participate in the voting. Speaking against holding elections “with a predetermined result”, the party will organize a protest action from the morning.
According to political analyst Tigran Grigoryan, there is a political consensus and Samvel Shahramanyan is likely to be elected. He says that clearly a decision has been made “to manage the republic in this crisis situation by united efforts, therefore the candidacy of Shahramanyan, who is not a political figure, is presented”. As the political scientist explains, he represents that informal political alliance, which was consolidated by Ruben Vardanyan, former state minister of the unrecognized NKR. It includes former presidents and representatives of the three opposition factions of the parliament.
The only presidential candidate
Samvel Shahramanyan was appointed State Minister a few days ago, on August 31. This was one of the last decisions of the former president of the unrecognized republic Araik Harutyunyan. But even before Harutyunyan’s resignation, there were speculations in the media that it was Shahramanyan who would succeed him.
Since January 2023, Shahramanyan has been the secretary of the Security Council. He is considered a close associate of former President Bako Sahakyan. During his presidency, Samvel Shahramanyan was the head of the National Security Service.
“This is a very important test.”
Araik Harutyunyan, who resigned on September 1, called on the deputies to make a choice “without giving in to the influence of various narrow groups”. He emphasized that he cannot and does not want to influence the decision of the ruling “Free Homeland” faction. He recalled that he left its ranks immediately after the second Karabakh war, in 2020.
Harutyunyan called on all political and public figures to show restraint:
The former president called on all political and public figures to show restraint.
“This is a very important state for our state and political system, which we are obliged to take with honor and without shocks.”
“A group fighting for a change of power in Armenia.”
In one of his latest interviews, United Homeland party leader Samvel Babayan said that he knows how the decision on the presidential candidacy was made:
“Three people in a basement cannot make [such an important] decision. Araik Harutyunyan, Bako Sahakyan, Arkady Ghukasyan [former presidents] spent a whole night together and made such a decision. This is not an assumption. Everyone knows about it.”
In Babayan’s opinion, everyone who will participate in the voting will be held responsible for getting involved in this “game with the fate of their people.” He urged to “think a thousand times” to avoid extremely undesirable consequences:
“We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But we allow the creation of a group in Artsakh that fights for the change of power in Armenia. Let the government of Armenia change, but let the people there take to the streets and change the authorities. Why are you setting Karabakh up?”
Political analyst Tigran Grigoryan believes that the former presidents, former state minister Ruben Vardanyan and their entourage “decided to deal with the situation together” and make joint decisions:
“Samvel Shahramanyan is not an independent figure, he will simply be the representative of this group in the presidential chair.”
He characterizes the presidential candidate as “a person who has always been behind the scenes,” never engaged in public activities:
“If popular elections were held [rather than voting in parliament], if they were free and fair, if he did not have the support of the said group, his chances of being elected to any position would be zero.”
According to the political scientist, in the case of nomination of an authoritative statesman, the new president could really manage the situation, given the fact that the presidential institution has quite broad powers. But at this stage sees a different goal:
“In these circumstances, it seems that what is needed is a figure who can be easily managed and collectively make decisions.”
As for the protest action announced by United Motherland, Tigran Grigoryan said that there are other, less well-known political forces that are inclined to take part in it:
“There are serious risks of internal clashes. The situation in Artsakh will be quite tense in the coming days”.
Presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh