It’s been a busy weekend for post-Soviet election watchers with not one, but two elections taking place – a referendum on a new constitution in Nagorno-Karabakh, and a Presidential election in Transdniester.
In Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of (mostly) Armenians stuck in the middle of Azerbaijan, they’ve been voting in a referendum on their new constitution.
The constitution, which describes Nagorno-Karabakh as a “sovereign, independent state” is likely to boost hopes of independence from Azerbaijan.
Turnout was apparently above 80%, and the new constitution is expected to be approved by an overwhelming majority.
[T]he government of Azerbaijan says the referendum is being held under an illegal military occupation of Azeri territory.
This election was observed by monitors from the EU. They thought the election was well organised, free and fair.
Interfax have dug up the following comment though:
Luciano Ardesi, an observer from Italy and head of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, said the referendum observed all voting standards.
“What the people of Nagorno Karabakh did today is quite legitimate. The international community must recognize the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh to either establish its own state or join Armenia,” he said.
From the wording of the Interfax article, it’s not clear if Ardesi is an official spokesman for the EU election monitors, or just some random supporter of independence for Nagorno-Karabakh who happened to be in town while they were holding a referendum. If the former, then the EU are going to have some explaining to do, if the latter then Interfax will be the ones who end up with egg on their faces.
Meanwhile, over in the tiny sliver of Moldvoa that doesn’t really like being a part of Moldova they’ve been electing a President this weekend. Igor Smirnov, the incumbent, is likely to romp home in an election that the cynic in me thinks probably won’t be all that free or all that fair.
Smirnov plans to use his ‘victory’ to push for union with Russia:
“We have defined a scheme: at first, this is referendum, then elections and later the achievement of the goal set at the referendum – integration with Russia. This shows once again that we are building our own state. Democracy is not drawn, it can be born,” he said.
Russia likes Transdniester’s pro-Russian government, but enough to contemplate a formal union? Fat chance.
The Moldovan government, as you’d imagine, isn’t all that impressed with the democratic credentials of Transdniester’s election:
Moldova’s Foreign Ministry has called the election in Trans-Dniester “illegal,” and has asked other countries not to send international monitors. The ballot was observed, however, by dozens of Russian and Ukrainian lawmakers.
No idea what the Ukrainians thought of the election. But the Russian observers thought it was magnificent.