“Ensuring the Stability in the Country”

“Ensuring the Stability in the Country”

The presidential election in the Republic of Artsakh under the dome of COVID-19 outbreak.

Text: Margarit Mirzoyan

Photo: Wikipedia.org

 

The Central Election Commission of Artsakh summed up the preliminary results of presidential elections. The fourth president of Artsakh is Arayik Harutyunyan․ He received around 88% of votes in the second round of the elections. During the first round on March 31st, Arayik Harutyunyan received 49,2% of votes. The current Foreign Affairs Minister of Artsakh and the runner-up of the presidential race Masis Mayilian gained 26,4%, with 72.7% of overall electoral participation.

This year’s elections set several records. Firstly, with an unprecedented number of candidates: 14 presidential contestants and 12 political parties. For the first time, a need for runoff elections appeared as none of the candidates received the necessary amount of votes to declare a triumphant victory. Previously, the presidents of the country were selected with a vote gap varying from 80-90%. However, the unusual number of candidates and also the surprisingly active participation of the citizens, despite the danger of a COVID-19 outbreak, might be the case for this year’s elections. Another record was the number of registered international observers to attend the elections. However, due to the closed borders all across the world, very few observers from Armenia managed to attend and monitor the polls, traveling from one station to another.

There were numerous calls to postpone the elections until the situation with the coronavirus settles. Nevertheless, the government didn’t address these concerns, and eventually, on March 31st, Artsakh citizens hit the polling stations to make their voices heard. During his press conference, Araik Harutyunyan called polling stations the “safest places” in the country and noted that if the government informed that it’s unable to provide safe conditions for these elections, their party would be the first to withdraw.

 

At the moment of the first-round elections, there were no cases of coronavirus confirmed in Artsakh. However, there was a fear that the flow of observers and journalists coming to the country from abroad might lead to a much worse scenario. Thus the border of Armenia and Artsakh have been closed for traveling five days before the elections, with several exceptions for an exact number of observers and journalists from Armenia, who went through preliminary COVID-19 testing before entering Artsakh.

Fifteen days before the elections, the Central Electoral Commission has called upon the candidates to stop the campaign meetings and try attracting electoral votes via online platforms. On the election day, all the polling stations workers wore masks, used disinfecting liquids, and space went through sanitary cleaning.

The following days after the elections, everyone was anxiously waiting for the news from Artsakh, with a hope that the republic might become one of the very few countries, which didn’t have COVID-19 cases at all and that the air of Artsakh can actually do miracles, but on April 7th the news about the first case of infection in Artsakh’s Qashatagh region, Mirik village appeared in the press. The official information center indicated via Facebook that the citizen, who was the first case of coronavirus in Artsakh, took part in the national elections on March 31st, using a mask, an individualized pen, disinfectant liquids, and at that moment had no fever or any other symptoms.

On April 9th, two new cases were discovered, and another two have been exposed one day later. On April 12 the number of coronavirus cases in Artsakh totaled 6. On the same day, the president of Artsakh Bako Sahakyan declared a state of emergency. Earlier, Mirik, Moshatagh, and Tsitsernavank settlements of Qashatagh, which had the first cases of COVID-10, were isolated.

 

Despite these developments, the calls from different authorities and experts, who considered this election a huge mistake given the healthcare situation all across the world, the government didn’t postpone the second round of elections as well and here again, the society crossed its fingers, waiting for news from Artsakh. Days before the runoff elections, the second candidate Masis Mayilian asked the citizen vote addressed the people of Artsakh, asking them not to take part in the second round on April 14th due to the danger of spreading the coronavirus but despite the lower participation rates (around 45%), the second round took place, confirming the results of the first one.

 

Many people criticized Nikol Pashinyan for not intervening and trying to postpone the elections. However, referring to the presidential election in Artsakh during the government session on March 16th, Mr. Pashinyan indicated that he doesn’t see any reason to postpone the elections.

The PM addressed the elections again during his Facebook live before the second round and said that we cannot be sure that the elections in Artsakh were perfect, but the Armenian authorities must continue to support Artsakh in building democracy, and the voice of the people should be heard. Nikol Pashinyan also congratulated Mr. Harutyunyan, indicating that “The people of Artsakh have once again confirmed their unwavering will and right to live, work and create on their land. It was once again proved that Artsakh is an independent and democratic state with its established institutions and mature civil society․”

 

The majority of experts think that the main reason for hurrying with the elections was ensuring the stability in the country due to well-known geopolitical facts and vividly illustrating that Artsakh has a full-functioning government and civil society to the international community. However, having in mind dramatic effects the delay could have on the country, the opinions of the experts matched around the fact that the elections could be postponed given the fact that many other countries already delayed political activities, campaigns and elections.

As for the results of the elections, opinions vary whether or not Artsakh has chosen the right leader for its future. The polling stations are closed, the ballots are counted, the country has six confirmed COVID-19 cases, and according to the preliminary results, the winner of the Artsakh’s presidential race of 2020 is Arayik Harutyunyan. The rest is a matter of the future.

 

Arayik Harutyunyan

Born in the capital of Artsakh, Stepanakert on December 14, 1973. From 1990-1994 he studied at the Armenian State University of Economics. In 1992, he joined the NKR self-defense forces and participated in the military operations. After the ceasefire, Mr. Harutyunyan continued his graduate and postgraduate studies at the Artsakh State University, Faculty of Economics. Simultaneously, from 1995-1997, he worked as an assistant to the NKR Minister of Economy and Finance. In the later years, Mr. Harutyunyan continued his career in the banking industry, branch manager of “Hayagrobank” first in Askeran then in Stepanakert. In 2005, Araik entered the political field, becoming the co-president of “Free Homeland” and was appointed as a member of the parliament. He was also the head of the “Homeland” fraction, chairman of the parliament's Standing Committee on Financial-Budgetary and Economic Management. Since 2006, he also entered the private sector becoming the executive director of “Karabakh Gold” LLC.

In 2007, Arayik Harutyunyan was appointed as the prime minister of Artsakh by the decree of the president and reappointed for the second term in 2012. In 2013, he defended his dissertation and became a candidate of technical sciences.

Starting from 2017, Arayik Harutyunyan is the State Minister of the Artsakh Republic, the leader of the "Free Homeland" party. In 2018, He resigned from this post and was appointed as the advisor to the president for special affairs.