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International Observers of Artsakh Referendum Are Sure: Being Unrecognized Does Not Impact the Will of the People


On February 20, the referendum on Constitutional changes took place in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. According to the NKR Central Electoral Commission, 79.428 (76.44% of the total number of voters) out of 103.766 citizens took part in the voting. According to the data, announced by Central Electoral Commission, 2202 ballots (2.8%) were declared invalid, 7686 citizens voted against and  69.540 citizens (87.6%) voted in favor of the Constitutional amendments.

The decision on making constitutional changes was made by the agreement of political forces. In 2016, on February 23 parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties of Artsakh sent letter to President Bako Sahakayan, proposing to create a special commission on constitutional reforms. In the result participants agreed to begin a process of constitutional reform and address the President in order to initiate the joint proposal. The document was signed by the "Free Motherland" party, "Communist Party of Nagorno karabakh", "Democratic Party of Artsakh", "Armenakan-Democratic Liberal Party", "Armenian Revolutionary Federation", "Movement 88", "National Revival" and leaders of the republican parties of Artsakh.

Ahead of referendum there have been formed "YES" and "NO" campaign headquarters. The representatives of both campaign headquartes MP Gagik Petrosyan and the member of opposition party, Vahram Balayan told that the referendum was held without incidents and added that NKR people are happy, because February 20 is also Artsakh Revival Day.

The chairwoman of NKR Central Electoral commission told that in the Constitutional referendum more than 104 international observers from 30 countries, 103 local observers and more than 80 media representatives were present. The President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR/Artsakh) Bako Sahakyan and the Speaker of the Parliament Ashot Ghulyan, received the members of Russian, French, German, Austrian, Spanish and Basque delegations, delegations from European Parliament, the Czech Republic, Pakistan and the multinational state of Bolivia Chamber of Deputies, Bulgaria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria, a group of members of parliament, also former German Ambassador to Armenia Reiner Morell who had arrived in Artsakh for conducting observation mission.

During the meeting with international delegations, President Sahakyan attached importance to the significance of the observation mission of the foreign delegations in terms of strengthening the democratic institutions in the republic, presenting truthful information about Artsakh Republic in different countries and developing bilateral relations. In his turn the speaker of Artakh Parliament, Ashot Ghulyan told that the Constitution is a very comprehensive document, which aims to increase the readiness of Artsakh against all challenges: both enternal and external threats.

As for the international observers, they have concluded that they are satisfied with the referendum process and have stated that the voting took place peacefully, without any complaints. Let’s consider below their reviews on Artsakh’s Constitutional referendum.

According to the members of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Yevsen, Valeri Korovin and Alexander Skakov who are in Artskah  for carrying out an observation mission,  Artsakh people's level of legal awareness is quite high. "Here we saw a democratic country" said the delegation member and politician Alexander Skakov and expressed hope that April events will never happen again. 

Former Senator of Uruguay, member of "The Nagorno-Karabakh Forum" of Uruguay and writer Oscar Lopez Goldaracena, who also has arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh to monitor the constitutional referendum, told that Artsakh has all the preconditions for being recognized as an independent state. "I would first of all like to stress that we are in a country, where all the state structures work at a high level. I am impressed by the referendum, activeness of the people and the total absence of any disorder," Goldaracena said. Besides that he emphasized that Uruguay was the first country to recognize the Armenian Genocide. "I hope it will also be the first country to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh," he stressed.

Member of European Parliament from Luxembourg  Frank Engel stressed that being unrecognized didn’t impact the will of the people. "Despite the non-recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, I think I can already confidently call it Artsakh Republic", emphasized Frank Engel. According to him, this doesn’t hinder them to actively take part in the voting and come out against the entire world. As he mentioned people of NKR said "Yes". "I hope that the international community will take into account that the people in this country are free in making their choice and at the same time the same is not applied to a state several kilometers away from here".

What regards to Azerbaijan’s "black list" and his possibility to be included in it, Frank Engel stressed that in the case if he will be included, he will not be surprised since he has no plans to spend his vacations in Azerbaijan.

Summing up, we can confidently conclude that Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, despite being unrecognized by the international community it consistently organizes public life, develops democratic institutions and the processes taking place there correspond to international standards. The referendum and how it was organized, the words of the international observers from more than 30 countries come to prove this. 

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