NKR Votes 2010: Candidates for parliament seats united in uncompromising stance on Karabakh settlement

NKR Votes 2010: Candidates for parliament seats united in uncompromising stance on Karabakh settlement

Photolure

This coming weekend Karabakh will see its fifth parliamentary elections since gaining de-facto independence from Azerbaijan. Judging by the opinion polls, nothing will change in Karabakh’s foreign policy positions after the May 23 vote.

Experts say that in conditions of the unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan and a ‘besieged fortress’ status Karabakh Armenians have formed a single uncompromising position on the Karabakh settlement and decided not to wage tough election campaigns on this aspect. As a result, the elections are of purely ‘personified’ nature and their results are of interest to their immediate participants. For ordinary people in Karabakh nothing will change after the elections as only a slight realignment of political forces is likely to take place.

The Sociometer center conducted a survey in Nagorno-Karabakh in April to try to gauge voter preferences ahead of the legislative polls. According to the survey, the Free Homeland party is likely to get 13 seats in the 33-seat parliament of Karabakh, the Democratic Party of Artsakh –

11 seats, ARF Dashnaktsutyun – five seats, the remaining four seats are likely to be won by candidates with no party affiliations.

Since these same parties now already hold parliamentary seats, it can be concluded that nothing will change in the shape of Karabakh politics – probably there will be fewer Democrats, a few more supporters of Free Homeland and Dashnaks. All of them supported the candidature of the incumbent president Bako Sahakyan during the 2007 presidential election campaign.

This suggests that the positions of Karabakh after the elections will not change, especially regarding the Karabakh settlement. As many as 85 percent of the Sociometer survey respondents said they did not intend to make concessions to Azerbaijan, and only 2.9 percent said they would agree to cede some territories in exchange for a status. As many as 93 percent of the respondents said they categorically opposed the return of Azerbaijanis. Moreover, more than half of the people of Karabakh trust a solution to the Karabakh problem to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Karabakh President Bako Sahakyan. (6.8 percent trust Armenia’s and Karabakh’s former president Robert Kocharyan on that account.)

A total of 82 candidates on the lists of four parties, including Free Homeland, the Democratic Party of Artsakh, the Communist Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, are vying for 17 parliamentary seats according to the proportional system of representations. Another 44 candidates seek 16 MP positions in single-mandate constituencies.

The Free Homeland party ticket led by Karabakh Prime Minister Ara Harutyunyan includes 35 candidates. The list of the Democratic Party of Artsakh led by current Parliament Speaker Ashot Ghulyan includes 32 candidates. The two other parties, ARF Dashnaktsutyun and the Communist Party have submitted slates consisting of ten and five candidates, respectively.

A total of 273 district election commissions have been formed, of which one in Yerevan, at the permanent mission of Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia. The list of voters in Karabakh includes 94,900 eligible voters, or about 66 percent of the official total population of the republic. The election will be considered valid with a secured 25 percent turnout. The hurdle for political parties to get into the legislative body has been lowered from 10 to 6 percent.

Meanwhile, international observers are arriving in Karabakh. The former special envoy of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to the Caucasus, representative of the Paris office of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation Maurice Bonneau arrived on Wednesday. Chairman of the NKR Central Election Commission of NKR Sergey Nasibyan reported that between 60 and 70 international observers are expected to arrive, in particular from Russia, the United States, Germany, Italy, Greece, Great Britain, France, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Kyrgyzstan, Argentina. Journalists from 17 international and 15 local media have already been accredited, but it is expected that the number of journalists who will arrive to cover the Karabakh elections will reach 50-60. A delegation from the Central Election Commission of Armenia is also due to be in Karabakh.

During his visit to Yerevan last week the Turkish president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Mevlut Cavusoglu said that in response to the application by the Speaker of the Karabakh Parliament, the PACE Bureau decided not to send observers to the parliamentary elections in Karabakh.