19 JULY 2012
The Mission’s format and methodology
European Centre of Geopolitical Analysis, having experience in the field of election monitoring, has been invited by the Speaker of the National Assembly of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Mr. Ashot Gulyan to conduct Short Term Observation (STO) of the presidential elections scheduled for the 19th of July 2012. The Mission consisted of politicians and experts experienced in political processes and democratic procedures.
The Mission, being STO, has worked on the territory of NKR between 14th and 20th of July 2012.
The methodology of the Mission was based on the principles of EU, United Nations and other international organizations, concerning STO, which particularly included:
• Analysis of legal electoral framework;
• Analysis of electoral campaign;
• Observation of the voting on election day.
The Mission has acknowledged the fact that NKR, although not internationally recognized, is de facto functioning state, which means that it fulfills all prerequisites of statehood (territory, population, political authority).
The institution of the President of NKR, existing since 1994, is a key figure in republic’s political system. Until now three heads of state have been elected – Robert Kocharyan, Arkadiy Gukasyan and the incumbent (since 2007) president Bako Saakyan.
The 2012 electoral campaign has been shadowed by growing tensions on the truce line delimitated in 1994 after the war of independence of 1991-1994. Several soldiers (including Armenian) have been killed on the borderlands in Spring and Summer, with most cases being the results of Azerbaijani provocations. The tense situation could not stay without an impact on presidential elections in NKR. Thus the main issues of the campaign were connected to security measures, as well as on demands for peace talks including the participation of NKR as the most important subject of the so-called “frozen conflict”.
All candidates participating in the election campaign have voiced their support for NKR’s participation in conflict settlement with Azerbaijan. Acting president Bako Saakyan claimed that OSCE Minsk Group has already understood urgent need to involve Stepanakert in negotiations, and that this is the result of various endeavors of Karabakh’s authorities. Arkadiy Sogomonyan told that in case of him being elected as a president, Baku will agree to have direct talks with Stepanakert, meanwhile rejecting any territorial compromise with Azerbaijan. Vitaly Balasanyan stressed that there have been hardly any progress in peace negotiations since 1996, when Stepanakert ceased to participate in the talks. He claimed that Armenia should formally guarantee safety and independence of NKR.
Another important issue during the campaign was one of the economic nature and prospects of economical growth as well as infrastructural development. Several candidates focused particularly on border regions which were living in particularly severe conditions limiting their growth. A. Sogomonyan proposed tax-free zones in the bordering regions. B. Saakyan claimed that “county is the base for the whole state” and proposed special programs to build infrastructure and social services’ access to villages. Even the most remote of them, according to him, should have certain infrastructure, including the medical one. To limit migration from villages the acting president proposed a cheap credit program for young families who would like to build their houses in the county. V. Balasanyan told that a program for villages and farming should be based on a principle that in about 5-7 years food self sufficiency of NKR should be possible.
Besides internal significance, the role played by former presidents and politicians from Karabakh has been since the 90ies very important for the political life of Armenia itself. The first president of NKR (1994-1997) Robert Kocharyan then became prime minister (1997) and president (1998-2008) of Armenia. Other politicians from NKR, including the incumbent Armenian president Serzh Sarkisyan, have also strongly influenced the political landscape not only of their own republic, but of the neighboring Armenia as well.
Therefore the mission of European Centre of Geopolitical Analysis comes to a conclusion that the presidential elections in NKR are of large significance not only for NKR, but also for neighboring countries, as well as for the whole region, particularly in the context of geopolitical turbulences in the Middle East and Transcaucasus countries.
Constitutional and legal basis
The President of NKR being the head of state has position and competences which are usually ascribed to the head of state in moderate presidential or semi-presidential system, having as his counterpart the parliament (the National Assembly of NKR).The parliament can initiate impeachment procedure (art. 71 of the Constitution), but it may succeed only in case when the Supreme Court finds its arguments legally strong enough to proceed and then 2/3 of all members of parliament vote for impeachment.
The legal framework for presidential elections is prescribed in Nagorno-Karabakh constitution of 1996 and the Electoral Codex of 2007.
The Constitution states that all elections and referendums are based on the principle of universal, direct, equal and secret ballot (art. 3). The right to vote is given to NKR citizens with age over 18, with the exception of those who are mentally disabled and those who are sentenced to prison (art. 32). The latter can raise some doubts as it excludes all prisoners, without any distinction.
The president is elected for a five year term, with right to only one subsequent reelection. A candidate for presidential post has to be over the age of 35, being a citizen of NKR and permanently residing on the territory of NKR since at least 10 years before the election (art. 62 of the Constitution).
If more than two candidates participate in the election and no one of them gets more than 50% of all valid votes, a second round of the election is held within 14 days after the first round. If only one candidate participates in the elections, he is elected if at least 50% of the votes cast were in his support. The final results of the elections and their judicial legitimacy is recognized by the Supreme Court of NKR. Interesting rule has been introduced by the art. 64 of the Constitution which states that in case of serious and motivated problems concerning any of the candidates the elections may be postponed for another 14 days.
The role of internal and foreign observers is precisely described in Electoral Codex, guaranteeing transparency and openness of the electoral process.
Having met with several representatives of NKR civil society, mass media and the staffs of candidates participating in the election, the Mission comes to a conclusion that all the candidates had equal possibilities of accessing the voters with their programs and ideas. All candidates could participate in debates on equal rights, as well as they were given all necessary possibilities to organize meetings and other forms of direct campaigning.
Day of voting
On the 19th of July between 8.00 and 20.00 the members of the Mission have monitored voting at polling stations of three regions of NKR (Stepanakert city, Askeran region, Martouni region). The number of visited polling stations made about 4% of all polling stations existing in the country.
The Central Electoral Commission of NKR has provided the observers with complete and detailed information about the electoral procedures, as well as with all necessary assistance in fulfilling their duties.
The observers were given access to all polling stations of NKR, which means that the electoral process has been transparent according to NKR laws and regulations.
The Mission, after conducting its basic activities within STO, came to the following main conclusions:
• The elections were held in accordance to the legal basis (the Constitution and the Electoral Code);
• The level of preparation of the electoral bodies can be estimated as corresponding to democratic standards, concerning the experience of the Republic in organizing elections (16 elections of various levels and 2 national referendums since 1991);
• Due to the social, historical and cultural background of NKR the elections were calm and did not cause any political tensions in the society;
• The results of the elections can be recognized as legitimate and democratically guaranteeing the right of all citizens of NKR to express their views and opinions and choose the head of state;
• The observers of all candidates were present at most of the polling stations and if not they were given equal opportunities to register themselves as observers.
The general assessment of the quality of work of visited polling stations was excellent in 22% and satisfactory in 78%.
In 11% of visited polling stations the secrecy of the ballot was not fully guaranteed due to the lack of sufficient space of the used rooms. However, the members of polling stations’ electoral commissions’ tried to improve the situation after remarks of the Mission members.
In 67% of the visited polling stations the Mission has found various misinterpretations of the electoral law concerning the sealing of ballot boxes. The members of polling stations’ electoral commissions’ used handbooks which did not precisely describe the procedure of closing ballot boxes (as it is in art. 54 nr 3 of the Electoral Code). After the interventions made by the observers the problem was solved in every of the found cases.
Remarks and recommendations
• The instructions for polling stations’ commissions’ members should be edited more carefully and cover more detailed interpretation of the electoral regulations – particularly when it comes to the secrecy of the voting and security of ballot boxes;
• The conditions and size of buildings in which polling stations are placed could be improved, which is however not easy, concerning NKR is a developing country. In some cases the lack of sufficient place could lead to limiting the level of secrecy of the ballot as well as could make the work of polling stations’ commissions and observers less efficient;
• The remarks of foreign observers should be checked independently and passed to electoral authorities, particularly in context of tense international situation – in order to avoid irresponsible activities of foreign citizens and entities, interested in destabilizing country’s political stability.
Head of Mission
(-) Mateusz Piskorski PhD
Photo: ECGA's press conference in Stepanakert