An election official sealing ballots in Stepanakert. Photo from Arsen Kharatyan’s Facebook.

73.5 percent of 103,633 eligible voters cast their ballots in Nagorno Karabakh, its Central Election Commission (CEC) reported after the polls closed on March 31. Artsakh residents voted for a new president and parliament. 

The voting proceeded amid mounting concerns over the spread of Covid-19 with election workers and many voters wearing protective masks and gloves. But as Tatul Hakobyan of CivilNet reported in some instances there was little regard for social distancing rules, as people packed election precincts to cast their ballots.

As of election day, no cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Artsakh with all media and monitors arriving from Yerevan and elsewhere in Armenia obliged to take mandatory tests for the virus. As of March 31, there were 530 confirmed cases in Armenia, most of them in Yerevan and nearby urban areas. 

Concerns of Covid-19 risks depressing turnout proved largely unfounded, as nearly as many people voted this time as did in the previous presidential election in 2012, when turnout was reported at 73.6 percent.

According to the CEC’s Srbuhi Arzumanyan, the strongest turnout was in NKR’s Askeran district, at 79 percent, and the lowest in a voting precinct opened at Artsakh’s mission in Yerevan, at 52 percent. Turnout in NKR’s main city, Stepanakert, was over 70 percent, Hadrut – 76, Mardakert – 73, Martuni – 72.5, Shaumyan – 75, Shushi – 72 and Kashatagh – 67.5 percent.

With the vote count underway final preliminary results will be published on April 1.