Commentary: Karabagh Marching towards Democracy

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

Whether the international community recognizes it or not, Karabagh is marching towards democracy and self-determination. The international community has another agenda, which certainly does not include the security and the well being of the population in that trapped enclave. It is up to that population to determine its future and to guarantee its rights and prosperity.

It seems to be perfectly acceptable to that very same international community the transfer of power from father to son in Azerbaijan, in a dynastic set-up, thumbing their noses at international law or democratic norms, as long as they can have access to the rich energy reserves.

Karabagh was an autonomous oblast, even during the Soviet period, and it was allowed to elect its own rulers.

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet empire, Karabagh exercised the same procedures prescribed in the Soviet Constitution to secede from the Union as did Azerbaijan, a process that does not impinge on Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, contrary to what the latter is arguing in various world bodies.

As the negotiations have been continuing for two decades, Karabagh’s people did not have to wait for the outcome of those negotiations to elect their leaders and to develop the infrastructures of their government.

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Besides, when the time comes to involve Karabagh in the negotiating process, certainly these elected representatives should be invited to participate in those negotiations on behalf of the people of Karabagh.

The people of Karabagh elected their president on July 19 through a democratic process. The participation of voters was significant: 73.4 percent of the eligible voters cast their ballots. Incumbent President Bako Sahakian garnered 60 percent of those votes, while his top challenger Vitali Balassanian received 32.5 percent of the votes and Arakady Soghomonian came in third.

Dozens of international observers characterized the elections as free and fair, despite some irregularities which ultimately did not impact the outcome of the elections.

Of course, opinions are divided on these elections and their outcome; Armenians in Karabagh and Armenia believe that the elections have resulted in a new political situation, which places Karabagh on an irreversible course of democracy, while the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group representatives and Armenia’s neighbors have other opinions. Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, after congratulating the people of Karabagh, commented: “The international community will certainly be interested in dealing to deal with authority elected by the people of Karabagh, especially in view of the fact that the Minsk Group’s agenda has mandated such a prospect.”

Continuing his comments he said, “the people of Karabagh once more proved their determination to achieve their destiny through a democratic process.”

Even a few US congressmen hailed the process and the outcome at these elections, including Howard Berman, Adam Schiff, Frank Pallone and Ed Royce.

The latter commented that the “electoral process is working in Karabagh. The voting proved that democracy is active there.”

It would have been too good to be true had the Minsk Group representatives given the same positive assessment. Instead, they issued statements underlining that no country recognizes Karabagh’s independence and that these elections do not have any bearing on the ongoing negotiations, nor on their outcome. However, there is a positive element in their statement that “the co-chairs of the Minsk Group accept the need for the de facto authorities to regulate the life of the people through these democratic processes.”

Once again mischief comes from Armenia’s only fellow Christian nation in the Caucasus, Georgia. Indeed, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on the site of Gruzia online that it does not recognize the “so-called presidential elections” in Karabagh.

Had the Georgian authorities been satisfied with that statement, no sinister intention would have been inferred, because observers know that is a position of principle for Georgia, as Tbilisi has lost two regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Nor has Tbilisi recognized Kosovo’s independence, despite the decision of the International Court of Justice on July 22, 2010 that Kosovo’s independence does not violate international law.

By the same token, the Tbilisi government has not recognized the independence of South Sudan. But the Georgian authorities have gone further to betray their perennial animosity towards Armenia by stating: “The Georgian Foreign Ministry unequivocally supports Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and does not recognize the so-called ‘presidential elections’ in Karabagh.”

Every time, the authorities in Yerevan come out with statements that relations between Armenia and Georgia are improving, the leadership in Tbilisimanages to torpedo those positive statements by corresponding acts of enmity.

The people of Karabagh have beaten their oppressors in a war forced upon them. They maintain their vigilance and combat readiness for any eventual danger while they build a democratic society which could never have existed under Azeri rule.

The people of Karabagh have expressed their will through the recent presidential elections and they are marching towards democracy in unison.

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