Artsakh Political Factions Agree On New President

By Asbarez | Friday, 08 September 2023

YEREVAN (–Nagorno-Karabakh’s ruling party and three opposition groups have reached a consensus on who should replace Arayik Harutiunyan, who resigned as president last week amid a deepening humanitarian crisis caused by Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin corridor.

Announcing his resignation on August 31, Harutiunyan said Karabakh needs new leadership in order to better cope with grave challenges facing it almost three years after the disastrous war with Azerbaijan. He appointed the secretary of his security council, Samvel Shahramanyan, as Karabakh premier before formally stepping down the following day. The Karabakh parliament is due to elect his successor on Saturday.

Officials in Stepanakert said on Wednesday that four of the five parties represented in the legislature, including Harutiunyan’s Free Fatherland, agreed late on Tuesday to nominate Shahramanyan for the vacant post. They control enough seats to elect him.

“We held many meetings [with Karabakh residents] in the last few days, and there was not a single person who did not want the current state minister to be president,” Metakse Hakobyan, a leader of the opposition Justice party, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Shahramanyan is reputed to be a figure close to Harutiunyan’s predecessor Bako Sahakian. He headed Karabakh’s main security service during Sahakian’s rule that ended several months before the outbreak of the 2020 war.

The only party opposed to Shahramanyan’s election is led by Samvel Babayan, a controversial retired general who led Karabakh’s armed forces in the 1990s. In a weekend interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Babayan said that the United Fatherland party will boycott the election. It is also planning to stage a demonstration in Stepanakert on election day.

Unlike the other Karabakh factions, Babayan’s party does not oppose the opening of a new, Azerbaijani-controlled supply route for Karabakh which Baku says is a precondition for allowing renewed humanitarian supplies through the Lachin corridor. Its leader also appears to favor other concessions to Azerbaijan.

Babayan revealed on Sunday that he has presented the Azerbaijani government with alternative proposals on how to end the humanitarian crisis. The once powerful general, who is accused by his detractors of secretly collaborating with Armenia’s government, refused to disclose them.

Baku has repeatedly said that its dialogue with the Karabakh Armenians should only focus on the Armenian-populated region’s “reintegration into Azerbaijan.” “There is simply no other way, all other options are illegal,” Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said on Wednesday.