Fears that Elections in Nagorno-Karabakh may inflame tensions on Armenia-Azerbaijan line of contact.

The campaign in the Presidential election in the self-declared Nagorno- Karabakh Republic is taking place amidst the backdrop of heightened tension of the line of contact separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. Last week there were reports on casualties on both sides in the most serious incidents reported this year. Karabakh and surrounding areas were reported tense, and the President of the self-declared republic extended the period of conscription of current military recruits by one month.

Azerbaijan has condemned the elections, scheduled for 19 July 2012 as a provocation. International organisations and western countries are expected to declare that they will not recognise the results because of the current status of the territory and since the Azerbaijani population of the territory which was displaced by the conflict cannot vote.

Bako Sahakyan, the president of the
self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic is considered the favourite in
elections scheduled to be held in the
territory on July 19th.

Four candidates are running for the post of President: the incumbent President, Bako Sahakyan, a member of the region’s parliament Vitaly Balsanyan, an academic Arkady Soghomonyan and an unemployed person, Valery Khachataryan.

Although the current President is by far the favourite to win the election, Balsanyan is also a credible contestant.

War hero Vitaly Balsanyan is mounting a
credible challenge against the incumbent
President but his candidature suffered
a setback after one of the main parties
declared its support for Sahakyan

He is a former war hero and is mounting an active campaign. Speaking to news.am Balsanyan said that “The attitude of the nation is not quite clear yet, but everything it quiet and peaceful in the country, we are working and getting ready.”

Commenting on how he was getting ready for the elections, Balasanyan mentioned that his team is busy with organization issues and is developing the campaign program. Among main points of Balasanyan’s program is returning NKR as a direct participant in the negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

Balsanyan’s campaign however suffered a setback following a statement made by Karabakh Central Committee of the Dashnak Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). According to the statement during the presidential elections in NKR ARF is to support Bako Sahakyan. “I started to cooperate with ARF in 2005 when I participated in the parliamentary elections as member of the ARF-Movement-88 and have been a member of the parliamentary group of the same name. Since 2010 I have been a member of the ARF parliamentary group. Until now we had good relations and I always felt the respect of ARF members towards myself,” Balasanyan’s statement reads. According to Balasanyan, he had informed ARF about his nomination as presidential candidate and ARF replied that the party is not going to support any of the candidates. Balsanyan says that he considers ARF’s recent decision to support Bako Sahakyan to be inappropriate.

Observers are concerned that the elections will further inflame tensions on the line of contact and are expecting intensified diplomatic activity over the next weeks to try to defuse the situation.

Karabakh candidate campaigns on facebook.

Karabakh presidential candidate Vitaly Balasanyan has turned to facebook as an important medium of his election campaign, according to the London based institute for War and Peace reporting (IWPR). He told IWPR that under Karabakh’s laws, he is not technically allowed to campaign until June 19, but he is updating his page every day with his thoughts and photographs. “I launched the page with the aim of engaging more actively,” Balasanyan wrote in a recent post. “I’m going to put down my thoughts and ideas and see how readers react. I think virtual conversations will be productive.” Diana Movsesyan, a graduate of Artsakh State University – the main institute of higher education in Karabakh – has already clicked “like” on Balasanyan’s Facebook page. “I am convinced that Balasanyan’s candidacy gives us a chance to hold a different kind of election in Karabakh. I want it to be democratic, without pressure or anything,” she said. “I hope that state institutions don’t exploit their power [in favour of the incumbent] ahead of the election. I hope this election changes the atmosphere in the country.”

Source: CEW with IWPR