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Domestic Debate Marks Karabakh Presidential Vote

The July 19 presidential vote marks the departure of de facto President Arkady Ghukassian from the leadership of this breakaway territory after a decade in power. Five candidates campaigned to take his place, though the race largely revolved around only two: Bako Saakian, the reserved 46-year-old former head of Karabakh's security service, and Masis Mailian, the territory's media-friendly, English-speaking 39-year-old de facto deputy foreign minister.

Turnout at 5pm was put at 65.7 percent or some 60,267 voters. Polls were due to close at 8 pm local time, or 11 am New York time.

The contest has been depicted by some Western analysts as yet another regional show-down between relatively conservative, pro-Russian forces and relatively liberal, pro-Western forces.
The concept of such a rivalry is largely rejected within Karabakh itself, however. "Russia is very far from Nagorno-Karabakh," commented de facto President Ghukassian said in an interview July 18. Most people interviewed in Karabakh characterized the race as a test of the territory's ability to show the outside world that it possessed the democratic credentials to fend for itself.

To read the full story

Elizabeth Owen is EurasiaNetÆs Caucasus news editor in Tbilisi. Sophia Mizante is a freelance photojournalist based in Tbilisi.

Domestic Debate Marks Karabakh Presidential Vote

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