New Karabakh Parliament Convenes, Elects Leadership

STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)—The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s new parliament convened for the first time and chose its leadership on Thursday more than two weeks after being elected in a vote criticized by Azerbaijan and the European Union.

The May 23 polls were swept by the three political parties represented in the republic’s government. The largest of them, Prime Minister Ara Harutiunian’s Azat Hayrenik (Free Fatherland), won 14 seats in the 33-member legislature.

The Democratic Artsakh Party (ZhAK) of outgoing parliament speaker Ashot Ghulian came in second with 10 seats, followed by the Karabakh branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (6 seats). The remaining three deputies are also loyal to Karabakh President Bako Sahakian and his coalition government.

Despite not leading the largest parliament faction, Ghulian was overwhelmingly reelected as speaker. In an ensuing speech, he portrayed that as proof of “political solidarity” among the three coalition partners. The Karabakh parliament also swiftly chose the chairmen of its standing committees representing the three parties.

Azerbaijan has always condemned elections held in Karabakh, and the May 23 vote was no exception. The Azerbaijani Central Election Commission denounced it as a “farce.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton similarly called the Karabakh elections illegitimate and said they “should not prejudice the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

But the French, Russian and U.S. mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group gave a far more cautious assessment of the polls. In a joint May 24 statement, they said they understand the “need for the de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh to try to organize democratically the public life of their population with such a procedure.”

Since declaring its independence from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, democratic elections have been a top priority for the government of Nagorno-Karabakh.  President Bako Sahakian stressed that point in a speech congratulating the newly-elected members of parliament.

“On May 23, the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) once again displayed great discipline and civic responsibility by casting their votes for the sake of a strong and prosperous future for Artsakh,” said Sahakian, stressing the importance of a democratic parliament that represents the will of the people. “The people gave their vote of confidence to you and you are obliged to justify it in every way possible.”

Sahakian said Karabakh’s parliament has a “pivotal” role in the country’s young democracy. The National Assembly, he continued, is responsible for the improvement of the republic’s laws, the strengthening of its democratic principles, the protection of government checks and balances and the country’s integration with the international community.

Sahakian pointed to the election as a renewed testament that the independence of Karabakh is “irreversible” and that “the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have the ability to master their own fate, and build a free, independent, democratic country.”


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  1. eddy said:

    Good news BUT: The authorities in NKR should be aware of the fact that there “friends” in Yerevan currently are doing everything possible to create tension in the society and making the life of people as hard as possible – specially for the people living in villages. This irresponsible and partially criminal policy of authorities will do no good to our people and NKR!! !

  2. Stepan said:

    Our brothers and sisters in Karabagh deserve our support, respect and admiration. We tend to focus on our problems, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that what they have accomplished in the last 20 years from
    the awakening to the liberation to presence of a maturing democracy should be nothing short of inspring to
    all Armenians. Let’s keep our disagreements internal and below the radar. The presence of sovereign Armenians in historic Artsakh is the goal.

  3. Alex Postallian said:

    Firstly,you have to take the TWO SWINE HERD,AZERI AND JERKY TURKEY,out of the picture.

  4. Cristina said:

    Whoever wants a ‘strong and prosperous future’ for Artsakh, should go for example to Aghdam and see the desolating scenery there – Dried riverbanks, yellow grass, cracked fields, winds blowing through ruins that still stand under the almost burning sun…
    Try to build a country on that! :-(