By Karine Kalantarian
The unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) is to enact its first-ever constitution that will reaffirm its secession from Azerbaijan unilaterally declared nearly fifteen years ago, according to officials in Stepanakert.
A commission formed by NKR President Arkady Ghukasian has for years been working on the text of the basic law and plans to submit its first draft to the local parliament in the second half of this year. Karabakh officials says it will likely be put to a referendum before the end of 2006.
“I suppose that we will pass the constitution in the course of this year,” Ghukasian told RFE/RL in an interview.
It is not clear whether these plans or the content of the proposed Karabakh constitution would be affected by a possible breakthrough in the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. Official Baku and Yerevan have reportedly been discussing a peaceful settlement that would allow Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian residents to decide the disputed region’s status in a referendum. The Karabakh Armenians would almost certainly vote to become a part of Armenia proper in such a referendum.
The planned adoption of the constitution appears to be connected with a presidential election in the NKR which is due to take place next year. The existing law on the NKR president bars Ghukasian from seeking a third term in office, but the constitution may drop that restriction.
The Karabakh leader, who has held the post since 1997, said he has yet to decide whether to try to stay in power after 2007. “Whether or not the constitution will allow for such possibility is an open question,” he said. “I don’t know, it’s the people who are going to adopt the constitution.
“And even if the constitution gives me such possibility, I still don’t know whether my participation [in the 2007 election] would make sense.”
Ghukasian added that he will not follow the example of other Karabakh leaders, notably Robert Kocharian, and move to Armenia after resigning from the NKR government. “I don’t think I will relocate to Armenia,” he said. “I don’t think I have such [moral] right. I don’t think that my place is in Armenia, regardless of which positions I occupy here.”