Poster for Balasanyan-led For Artsakh movement with photos of ex-president Robert Kocharyan. Photo by Joshua Kucera,

Elections for president and parliament of Nagorno Karabakh will take place on March 31 this year, according to the official announcement this week. So far, nine candidates are in the running for the presidency and about a dozen party lists are expected to compete for the National Assembly, making the upcoming election the most competitive in Artsakh’s history.

While no opinion polls have been published, relative social media reach of the candidates suggests that the four leading contenders are Vitaly Balasanyan, Arayik Harutyunyan, Hayk Khanumyan and Masis Mayilian and also that there is no clear favorite.

By contrast, NKR’s former army commander Samvel Babayan who was denied registration on residency grounds – and whose United Homeland party is nevertheless running for parliament – had a reach of 7,345 “likes.”

Most presidential candidates are associated with political parties that are also expected to run for parliament. These are Arayik Harutyunyan’s Free Fatherland, currently with most seats in parliament; Ishkhanyan’s Dashnaks, Ghoulyan’s Democrats, Khanumyan’s National Revival, Balasanyan’s Justice, Sahakyan’s Trust, Badasyan’s United Armenia and Israelyan’s Generation of Independence. Mayilian and Balayan are not associated with any parties.