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Early Election Buying Starts Off in Karabakh 

“Unprecedented amounts of money are spent on the upcoming elections in Nagorno Karabakh. Such amounts per vote have never been spent in Armenia. Although the official election race has not started, a total vote buying is underway through various foundations and organizations. Events, such as student or professor camps in Dilijan, Yerevan or even Black Sea are organized. Foundations open and offer interest-free loans or low-interest credits to people among other things. Former Prime-Minister Arayik Harutyunyan and foundations aiding him have long started all of this,” said Hayk Khanumyan, President of National Renaissance Party, oppositional member of the NK Parliament in an interview to Radio Liberty

Hayk Khanumyan warns that the upcoming elections in the spring of 2020 may be held in violations. The risk is always there. “The moment, the Artsakh authorities see the opportunity, they will falsify the elections.” The MP believes that if Yerevan exerts efforts, for example, through the presence of large election monitoring groups, large-scale electoral fraud may be prevented on the day of the elections, however it is unlikely that a legal characterization will be given to the process of “vote buying” preceding the elections long before.

Khanumyan finds Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s remarks on the upcoming elections in NK to the point. To remind the context, on December 1 2019, Pashinyan held a meeting with NK President Bako Sahakyan and other presidential candidates, including former Prime Minister and a large businessman of NK, Arayik Harutunyan, current speaker of the Parliament, Ashot Ghulyan, current Foreign Minister, Masis Mayilyan. During the meeting Pashinyan emphasized that both the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2020 need to be free, fair, transparent and need to meet international standards for which the government of Armenia will provide all necessary support.

Another possible candidate, Vitaliy Balasanyan, former Secretary of NK Security Council and a supporter of former president of Armenia, Serj Sargsyan, was not invited to the meeting. Balasanyan is known for explicitly threatening the supporters of 2018 revolution and Nikol Pashinyan, and this had been taken into account by not inviting “a person whose recent political activities are deemed shattering Armenia’s and NK’s national security” as was put by Pashinyan’s Press Speaker, Vladimir Karapetyan.

Hayk Khanumyan himself was not invited to the meeting, despite having expressed intentions to run for the presidential elections. Khanumyan, in any case would not have attended the meeting, as it was attended by Bako Sahakyan’s aides who supported Bako run for the 3rd, illegal round, according to him.

There are two other candidates that have declared of running: Rouslan Israyelyan and Kristine Balayan. Their names add to the currently known candidates: Arayik Harutyunyan, Vitaliy Balasanyan, Ashot Ghulyan, Masis Mayilyan, Hayk Khanumyan.

Samvel Babayan, a former military commander and head of the newly-created “United Homeland” Party did not qualify to run for the elections due to lacking residence and citizenship of NK for the past 5 years. His party, however, intends to run for parliamentary elections.

The 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections will mark the full enactment of the constitutional reforms of 2017 by which NK will transition from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary system of governance.