Nagorno-Karabakh’s Constitutional Referendum Set To Reaffirm Indepen

By Avet Demourian, Associated Press Writer

Associated Press Worldstream
December 10, 2006 Sunday 5:33 PM GMT

The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave on Sunday held a constitutional
referendum that was expected to reaffirm its independence bid.

The draft constitution describes Nagorno-Karabakh as a "sovereign,
democratic" state.

More than 74,500 people, or 83.7 percent of the region’s 89,000
eligible voters, cast ballots, said Mikael Adzhian, a spokesman for
the region’s Central Election Commission.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s leader Arkady Gukasian hailed the vote as a landmark
move that would "determine the Nagorno-Karabakh’s people destiny."

At least one third of the region’s eligible voters were needed to
make the vote valid, and a simple majority of those who cast ballots
is necessary for the constitution’s approval.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in Azerbaijan that has been under the
control of Armenian and ethnic-Armenian Karabakh forces since a 1994
cease-fire ended a six-year separatist war that killed about 30,000
people and drove about 1 million from their homes.

The region’s final status remains unresolved, and years of talks
under the auspices of international mediators have brought few
visible results.

Gukasian insisted the vote would not jeopardize peace talks. "The
passage of the constitution will have a positive impact on talks,"
he told reporters.

Azerbaijan has rejected the referendum as having no legal meaning.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Azeri population fled the conflict more
than a decade ago, and large numbers of them have lived as internally
displaced people since then.

In December 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh held a referendum in which ethnic
Armenian residents voted overwhelmingly for independence.

Masis Mailian, deputy foreign minister in the Nagorno-Karabakh
administration, said the constitution was essential to codify the
structure of its administration and citizens’ rights.

"It’s necessary to formalize the already existing foundations of
state system and relations between the state and its citizens,"
Mailian told The Associated Press.

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