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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Referendum on Karabakh settlement in Armenia: populist, useless and dangerous exercise

This may sound like breaking news that Armenian government wants to listen to public opinion and go forward with Karabakh settlement only after getting approval from the public via 'nationwide referendum'.

Sadly, this only sounds like that. In reality, this is useless and perhaps even dangerous populist exercise.

Imagine if Karabakh settlement agreement is put to a nationwide vote. Will it be the whole document or some separate clauses or, even worse, ‘principles’ which then anyone could interpret the way they want?

Then, let’s consider that understandably Azerbaijan also follows the suite and conducts its own referendum. Now hypothetical outcomes.

What if Armenia rejects it, and Azerbaijan accepts it? Does this mean war?

What if Armenia accepts it and Azerbaijan rejects it? Does this mean that Armenia would be forced to more compromises to satisfy Azerbaijan?

What if both Azerbaijan and Armenia accept it? Where does this leave Karabakh? Where is their voice? One would assume that the very people who will be directly affected by any decision signed are Karabakh citizens. It would be unimaginable that they should be left out of this ‘democratic exercise’. Till now, it was impossible for parties to agree on the terms of Karabakh referendum for its future status as reportedly a final step of the proposed settlement. There is no way that with current Azeri official position there will be any agreement to take into account the results of Karabakh’s own referendum on the settlement principles.

But forget even what I said above.

Do we trust voting, referendum, polling, you name it, initiated by Armenian authorities? The answer is simple: No. The whole history of national voting/referendum since 1995 proves that the answer is simple: No.

Unless there are fundamental changes in Armenian society and political system in terms of democratisation and representative governance, Armenian public will not accept any result of any poll initiated by Armenian authorities. This will only lead to intensifying of internal divisions and political crisis. Armenian ruling administration had almost a year to initiate real reforms, to increase faith of the public in democratic institutions. They failed so far, spectacularly.

And, finally, one somewhat minor point. If this poll, or ‘referendum’, initiated by Armenian government, is expected to be non-binding, why not conduct a proper opinion poll instead to reveal public views, even if for internal use only? The alternative in form of a proposed ‘nationwide referendum’ is populist, useless and dangerous exercise.

P.S. A1plus blog has also made a relevant entry on this subject matter (in Armenian)

8 comments:

Onnik Krikorian said...

Well, yes, PROPER opinion polls conducted by INDEPENDENT pollsters is sorely needed. And when it comes to Karabakh, proper discussion and information in society.

Incidentally, RFE/RL has always quoted mediators are close to hammering out a deal in the "coming months and even weeks."

However, NOBODY in diplomatic circles or foreign journalists following the negotiations are expecting one. Really, nobody.

Instead, they say that IF peace-building initiatives gain momentum in the coming year (and especially in Azerbaijan) it might be possible sometime in the future.

However, they add, that's BIG "If" because there is no sign of any real talk of the need for a peaceful compromise solution on the Azerbaijani side.

Not from the government, and not even from civil society. Still, let's see. A film crew are arriving tomorrow to do a documentary on Karabakh.

They'll be later off to Stepanakert and Baku. It will be interesting to see what they discover. Personally speaking, I consider that we're at the start of a new phase in a push for peace.

However, without similar opening up in Azerbaijan, I just don't see how a deal is possible anytime soon. I think we actually need a few years of real peace-building initiatives.

In that sense, Turkey's involvement is necessary and will have an influence on Baku. Even so, it's not exactly possible for Aliyev to go from talking of war to peace in a few weeks or months.

But, it's the Caucasus where anything is possible, I guess, so let's see.

artmika said...

RFE/RL: Armenian Referendum Bill Passed

The Armenian parliament on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to pass a government-drafted amendment which local politicians and pundits believe paves the way for a popular referendum on a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The draft amendment to Armenia’s law on referendums was submitted to the National Assembly and debated under an urgent procedure shortly after President Serzh Sarkisian reportedly pledged not to sign any peace accords with Azerbaijan without securing their approval by voters. It allows the government to hold non-binding plebiscites on any policy issue.

The holding of referendums has until now been the prerogative of the parliament and the president of the republic. The Armenian state authorities are obliged to abide by their results.

Only seven deputies of the 131-member legislature voted against the amendment in the first reading. All but one of them represent the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party that has condemned it as unconstitutional. Zharangutyun leaders regard the measure as a prelude to what they see as unacceptable Armenian territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.

The government and its loyal parliamentary majority have dismisses the opposition claims, while declining to rule out of the conduct of a Karabakh-related referendum in Armenia in the coming months. “There are no dangers here,” Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the governing Republican Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL. “There are only attempts to exploit the issue.”

Local political analysts were divided over the likelihood of such a vote. “I don’t think the authorities will take such a primitive step,” said Manvel Sargsian of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies. “It can’t be productive.”

Sargsian believes that persisting political tensions in Armenia as well as a lack of public knowledge of details of the Karabakh peace process make a referendum pointless. “There is so much uncertainty that people feel the government is plotting something bad,” he said. “They don’t view this as a good mechanism for expressing their position.”

But another analyst, Stepan Grigorian, defended the adopted amendment, saying that it gives the Armenian side more room for maneuver in the peace talks with Azerbaijan. He said Yerevan could use a popular vote for rejecting concessions to Azerbaijan that might be sought by international mediators. “If there is international pressure [on Armenia,] it is possible that the authorities will use the referendum factor,” Grigorian told RFE/RL.

Onnik Krikorian said...

As with everything in Armenia, who knows what the truth is? Still, I would like to think the authorities want a peace deal with Azerbaijan and vice-versa, and not least because it is somehow tied with improving relations with Turkey and opening borders. Nevertheless, if a referendum was held (and assuming it was conducted properly) I wouldn't expect most people to accept a compromise peace deal for the reasons that Manvel Sargsian gives. Unfortunately.

R said...

Only Karabagh can hold a referendum on the issue of any peace deal involving the status of Karabagh. Not Armenia and not Azerbaijan. This is the principle of self-determination.

artmika said...

Similar concerns expressed in my post and readers' comments are summarised by ArmeniaNow:

Some opponents of the bill have speculated that this way the Sargsyan administration would seek to partially lay the responsibility for the ultimate Karabakh solution on the people; others point at the lack of a track record of holding free and fair electoral and referendum processes in Armenia, which would also question the credibility of any referendum on Karabakh in Armenia; yet others point out that despite the declared nonbinding nature of such a referendum on Karabakh, the very fact of its holding in Armenia would essentially infringe upon Karabakh’s right to self-determination.

Anonymous said...

What kind of self-determination are you talking about? Armenians have already determined themesleves by establishing Armenia on Azerbaijani lands. Recent blog posts shows how Yerevan evolved out of the Muslim town to be an Armenian as a result of the rapid armenianization of the town. Mosque in the kond in Yerevan is an excellent proof.

All Armenians repeat this as a parrot. YOu will not be able to create the second Armenia at the expense of Azerbaijan. If europeans and americans love you, let them give you their land. I don't have any land for arnmenians, except in dreams of armenians.
Atilla

Anonymous said...

MAY I SUGGEST TO HAYORTIKS THAT WE SHOULD NOT DISCUSS ON THIS LIKE FORUMS-WHERE YOU SEE 'ATILLA" like ( A turk DEFINITELY) butting in.Keep your posts FOR more serious forums.However, if you would still wish to have the opinion of yet another Hayorti, here goes:-AND TRY TO UNDERSTAND IT CAREFULLY, NK/ARTSAKH CASE , ,AS FAR A HAYOPRTIKS ARE CONCERNED, IS CLOSED. IF INTENTIONALLY IT IS BEING BLOWN OUT TO APPEAR AS THE MAIN ISSUE , IT IS BY CUNNING TURCO-AZERI ELEMENTS-READ GOV.DIPLOMATS TO THE OUTER WORLD THE "ODARS" and their own publics, SO AS THEY WILL BE DIVERTED FROM THE MAIN ISSUE. ONCE AGAIN OUR MAIN ISSUE IS GENOCIDE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT BY R.OF TURKEY.THEY WILL SOONER RATHER THAN LATER DO SO.witness after decades of calling "MOUNTAIN TURKS " to 14/16 MILLION people as such they HAVE GIVEN IN AND COME TO TERMS THAT TESE ARE k u r d s .ESPECIALLY IF WE OFFICIALLY ASK THE OSCE MINSK GROUP PEACE MEDIATORS TO DIRECT THEIR MISSIONS TO ANKARA. FOR WITH AZERBAIJAN THERE IS NOTHING TO BE RESOLVED WITHOUT PERMISSION OF BIG BROTHER TURKEY.TRY TO GRASP THAT.ONE MORE THING. IF THIS MORE THAN A DECADE LONG MINSK GROUP MISSIONS ARE TO REALIZE THEIR MISSION, THEY MUST FIRST UNDERSTAND ABOVE.SECONDLY, IF IT COMES TO CIVILIZED COMPROMIS, which has been one of their reasonings, THEN BEAR-THEY MUST- IN MIND THAT ARMENIAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS WERE THE VITORS AND THEY HAVE THE UPPER HAND ON THE AZERIS..GIVE BACK TO US SHAHOUMIAN DISTRICT-THIS AS AN EXAMPLE- TAKE BACK FIZOULI..YOU WANT ANOTHER FURTHER DEAL, HAND OVER TO IUS OUR LONG USURPED NAKHIJEVAN IN LIEU OF JABRAIL...SO ON SO FORTH .OTHERWISE NOT A PALM OF LAND CAN BE GIVEN BACK TO AZERIS.ANOTHER ISSUE NOW!
REPUBLIC OF TURKEY DOES REALIZE THAT THEIR TRUMPETING THAT ARMENIA SHOULD CONCEDE TO THEIR PRECONDITIONS FOR OPENING FRONTIERS...
A. THEY CLOSED THE FRONTIERS,IN THE FIRST PLACE, FOR MORE THAN 12 YEARS-ARMENIA IS STILL GOING STRONG AND HAS ATTAINED MANY AN OBJECTIVE, not in any way brought to give in to their whims..ARMENIA ,THANK GOD HAS GOOD NEIGHBOURS SUCH AS IRAN AND GEORGIA AND RUSSIA AND DOES NOT RELY ON TURKISH OR ASZERI CONCESSIONS.THIS HAS BEEN PROVED.IF ATILLA LIKE PEOPLE THINK THEY CAN SCARE ARMENIANS TO ACCEPT WHATEVER THEY ARE DREAMING OF, THEY ERR TREMENDOUSLY.THE ARMENIAN SPIRIT MAY NOT SHOW UP UNTILL SOME REAL HAZARD COMES UP , THEN WE BECOME ONE FIST AND CAN GIVE IT TO THEM TO TASTE.AZERI RHETORIC , SUPPORTED BY TURKEY & SOME OF THEIR LACKEYS DOES NT COUNT. AN OLD IRANIAN /PERSIAN SAYING GOES, "TRYING TO SHOW ONE CAN LIFT UP A BIG ROCK, IS THE SIGN OF NOT BEING ABLE TO HIT with it...
SHANTAGIZOUM

artmika said...

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