Simulation of ‘democracy’ in occupied Nagorno-Karabakh

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

"Elections" in Stepanakert. [@ArtsakhPress Twitter]

The simulation of “democracy” in occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh unrecognized by the international community fooled no one, writes Vasif Huseynov.

Vasif Huseynov is a senior fellow at the Center for Analysis of International Relations in Baku (Azerbaijan)

Despite the coronavirus outbreak that has hit also the countries of the South Caucasus, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has again made headlines, at least in the region.

This happened so as a result of the elections for the executive and legislative bodies of the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”, a puppet structure established by Yerevan which has not been recognised by any country in the world, including Armenia itself.

Although the parliament was established in accordance with the results of the first round of the elections on the 31 March, 2020, no candidate received more than 50% of the vote in order to take the presidency.

Hence, the separatist regime is expected to hold a second round of presidential elections on 14 April, despite the obvious threats to the local community due to the pandemic.

The Azerbaijani government, outraged by what they describe as Armenia’s consistent attempts to legitimatize the occupation by playing the card of “democracy”, stated that holding the elections without full participation of the entire population of the region is illegal and violates the internationally accepted laws and norms.

The United Nations Security Council resolutions and the resolutions of numerous other international bodies, including the European Court of Human Rights, are some of the international documents which uphold the legal basis of Azerbaijan’s position.

Referring to this, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan underlined that “Any election will be possible only after the withdrawal of the Armenian occupying forces, return of the expelled Azerbaijani population to their places of origin, and restoration of dialogue and cooperation between the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of the region”.

Tellingly, Azerbaijan’s approach has been supported also by the international community, including the European Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, NATO, Turkic Council, GUAM, European Parliament, etc.

The EU declared that it “does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework in which the so-called presidential and parliamentary elections are held”, adding that “This event will have no effect on future determination of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiation process…

The EU is ready to continue supporting efforts aimed at a swift and peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” In a similar way, the Non-Aligned Movement of 120 member states, reaffirming its support to the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan, refused to recognize the “elections” and declared the entire process “illegal”.

It is important to note that, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (France, Russia and the United States), the body that is tasked to coordinate the settlement of the conflict, also reiterated this position declaring that they “do not accept the results of these ‘elections’ as affecting the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh and stress that the results in no way prejudge the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh or the outcome of the ongoing negotiations to bring a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

This reaction of the international community was received with great disappointment in Armenia, where leaders and experts expected that the “elections” would have been praised as “a welcome exercise of democracy and freedom”.

They believe that any advance of “democracy” in the Nagorno-Karabakh is “an important step forward”, ignoring the basic tenets which make possible for a political system to become a democracy.

This approach constitutes disrespect not only to the territorial integrity of Republic of Azerbaijan and the international documents re-affirming its sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also to thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) whose right to live in their homelands in the Nagorno-Karabakh region is continuously denied.

Those Azerbaijanis, whose number currently accounts for 80,000, have been forced out from these territories by Armenian military forces through violent ethnic cleansing. The well-documented mass murder of 613 Azerbaijanis in Khojaly, which is recognized as genocide by a growing number of other states, is only one tragic episode of this process.

The attempt to build democracy in the region under these circumstances resembles the dark pages of human history when human rights meant to privilege only one group of population based on race or ethnicity.

This is an attempt that contradicts the very principle of human rights which prohibits any discrimination based on race, gender or ethnicity.

Hence the EU and OSCE Minsk Group, among other international organizations, have the full right to declare that democracy will not be possible in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan unless the rights of indigenous Azerbaijani population are restored.

This is a reaction that can also serve as a reminder that in the 21st century no state should be allowed to pursue its expansionist ambitions at the expense of the blood and tragedy of thousands of innocent people.

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