Nikol Pashinyan does not have a mandate to hand over Artsakh to Azerbaijan

By Karen Harutyunyan, Editor-In-Chief

It is evident that Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan believes that his party’s landslide victory in the 2021 snap parliamentary elections has given him a mandate to do whatever he wishes. A typical assumption of a populist leader.

During that election campaign, Nagorno-Karabakh’s (Artsakh’s) “remedial secession” from Azerbaijan was at the center of Pashinyan’s and his Civil Contract party’s platform. Following his win, Artsakh’s self-determination was included in the formal government plan.

This week, Pashinyan shocked the nation by announcing that he is ready to accept Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. The human rights, security, and territorial implications of such an irresponsible move are unimaginable.

When asked in an interview earlier this month about his initial campaign announcements, Pashinyan said that most people do not look into those deeply, implying that election promises don’t bear political responsibility.

There are many reason’s for Pashinyan’s landslide victory in 2021, but that’s a topic for another piece. What matters now is that Armenia’s population considers the just solution of the Artsakh issue a priority, as evidenced by various sociological surveys.

In a public opinion poll conducted by the International Republican Institute in January-March of 2023, Armenians were asked what they considered the government’s main failures to be. Artsakh’s situation, the blockade of the Lachin corridor, and the issues of security are at the top of the list.

A November 2022, a survey conducted by the Caucasus Resarch Resource Center and commissioned by CivilNet shows that 39% of Armenians envision an independent Artsakh Republic as the final settlement of the conflict, while 31% consider Artsakh as part of Armenia. Another 13% consider Artsakh’s special status within Russia as a potential solution. The number of people who support an Artsakh within Azerbaijan, even with a level of autonomy is zero or close to zero.

These and other polls indicate that the Pashinyan government does not have the mandate to move forward with a capitulatory settlement, which is the fulfillment of all Azerbaijan’s demands, without any guarantees.

The Civil Contract Party received 689,000 votes in the June 2021 snap elections, and the other 25 parties and factions received 583,000 votes altogether. Less than 50% of eligible voters participated in elections. All this means that Nikol Pashinyan is far from having the absolute support of the Armenian voters and the “mandate to do everything”.

Even if Pashinyan had received 100% of the votes, no leader has the right to renounce Artsakh’s right to self determination, let alone subject a whole population to ethnic cleansing.

Pashinyan’s populism, lies, and endless search for scapegoats are a serious threat to Armenia’s national interests and the security of the Armenian people.

It is more clear than ever that this type of a peace treaty – without the people’s support, without any security guarantees – will not bring peace to the region.

“You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war,” Churchill would say.

Read the article in Armenian.

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