Nagorno-Karabakh Shows The World It Can Govern Itself

Vadim Dubnov is an independent political commentator.

RIA Novosti
16:59 | 27/ 07/ 2007

MOSCOW. (Vadim Dubnov for RIA Novosti) – Good things sometimes come in
very small packages. On July 19, Maj. Gen. Bako Saakyan was elected
president of the tiny, self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, an
ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan near the border with Armenia. The
election served as a positive example for other nascent democracies.

Saakayan, who had previously served as head of the republic’s
national security service, scored a landslide victory with 85.4% of
the vote. He was followed by Deputy Foreign Minister Masis Mailyan,
who garnered 12.2%.

The former security chief faced no serious rivals and will succeed
lame-duck President Arkady Gukasyan, who declined to run for a third
term and will step down this August.

The elections in Nagorno-Karabakh, which closely resemble those in
Abkhazia and Kosovo, highlight the republic’s political continuity
and made clear that the candidates did not use their influence or
connections to government institutions to achieve victory.

The international community and Azerbaijan, which lost control over
Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992, condemned the elections and called them

However, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) and Azerbaijan will have no choice but to cooperate with
President-elect Saakyan. The governments of Serbia and Georgia, as
well as international organizations, are also forced to deal with
the officially unrecognized leaders of Kosovo and Abkhazia.

Consequently, elections in self-proclaimed territories highlight
a worldwide legal conundrum and imply that different peace plans,
including the one advocated by former Finnish President and UN Special
Envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtissari, cannot solve the problem.

Moreover, there are no other long-term alternatives because the people
of Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and Kosovo do not want to be reintegrated
into, respectively, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Serbia. Nagorno-Karabakh
has no need to modify its policies because it does not have to become
part of Armenia and because it is not officially involved in peace
talks with Baku.

Although these tiny, self-proclaimed "garrison" states, which are just
starting out in this world, have a small population and a rudimentary
economy, they can eventually convert their local form of democracy into
the ordinary, grass-roots kind. The only alternative would be chaos.

Unlike elections in other parts of the Commonwealth of Independent
States, the Nagorno-Karabakh elections produced no surprises and
were not marred by any serious allegations of fraud. This fact was
itself a surprise to those who have always viewed Nagorno-Karabakh
as an unstable enclave.

Although the latest elections have nothing to do with independence
or international recognition, they prove that Nagorno-Karabakh, which
does not believe that the Ahtisaari plan will set a global precedent,
is a viable, albeit weak, state.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not
necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.