During a weekend trip to Artsakh that included visits to the military units and the Line of Contact, Armenia’s prime minister Nikol Pashinyan met with politicians expected to run in presidential elections next spring. In the meeting, Pashinyan expressed his support for free and fair elections.

In addition to the outgoing president Bako Sahakyan, the meeting included parliament speaker Ashot Ghoulyan, foreign minister Masis Mayilian and former prime minister Arayik Harutyunyan. All three are planning to run for president. Joining the meeting was David Ishkhanyan, leader of the local branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), which has so far not fielded its own candidate, but has the second largest faction in the current NKR parliament.

The meeting did not include several other candidates: war hero and until recently secretary of NKR’s National Security Council retired Gen. Vitaly Balasanyan, who over the past year has become one of Pashinyan’s harshest critics, another war veteran and member of parliament Ruslan Israelyan, and Kristin Balayan, an activist and businesswoman who is set to become the first ever Armenian female presidential candidate.

Concurrently with presidential elections Artsakh will also hold a vote for the National Assembly. The five parties represented in the current parliament Harutyunyan’s Free Fatherland Party, the ARF, Ghoulyan’s Democratic Party, Balasanyan’s Movement 88 and Hayk Khanumyan-led National Revival Party are all expected to run. The United Homeland affiliated with Samvel Babayan, Trust Party established by former army officer and recent candidate for Stepanakert mayor Grigori Sahakyan and Conservative Party established by Bako Sahakyan’s aide David Babayan are also also among parties expected to run for seats.

UPDATE: On December 3, Pashinyan had another meeting with Mayilian, who was in Yerevan in his capacity as foreign minister for consultations ahead of the annual OSCE Ministerial meeting.