On June 15, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan again spoke in the National Assembly about the referendum or plebiscite on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, as it is mentioned in the negotiation documents.
“The negotiation legacy left by Serzh Sargsyan does not mention that the referendum will take place in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is said that the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh will take part in the referendum. More specifically, it says a popular referendum, in which the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh will take part. In other words, the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh does not constitute the same concept of popular,” Pashinyan said.
Pashinyan has been advancing this idea quite actively lately, manipulating the provisions on the referendum.
The provision on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through a plebiscite (popular poll) was enshrined in the very first clause of the principles presented to the parties to the conflict in Madrid in 2007.
According to the clause, the plebiscite “․․․will allow the free and genuine expression of the will of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh. The modalities and timing of this plebiscite will be agreed upon by the parties through future negotiations, as described in Clause 9. The population of Nagorno-Karabakh is understood as the population of all ethnicities living in NK in 1988, in the same ethnic proportions as before the outbreak of the conflict. The formulation of the question or questions to be asked in the plebiscite should not be limited, and could cover the full range of status options.”
Nikol Pashinyan manipulates the possible outcomes of the referendum, saying that instead of “Nagorno Karabakh territory” the documents mentioned “population of Nagorno Karabakh”.
The fact is that the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh (NKAO) was an absolute majority according to the 1986 census conducted by the Soviet Union. The Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh amounted to about 103 thousand or 85% of the total population, while the Azerbaijani population amounted to 17 thousand or only 14%. The proportion was a bit different according to the data of 1989, the Armenian population making up the absolute majority again – 76.9%, the Azerbaijanis making up 21.5%, and Russians – 1%.
Thus, in his speech, Pashinyan tries to create the impression that the term “popular” was used by the former authorities only to indicate an “Armenian referendum”, and that in fact the Azerbaijanis should have participated in it as well, thus reducing the possibility of a solution in line with the ideas of the Armenian side. However, according to the Madrid principles, in any case, Armenians and Azerbaijanis would participate in the plebiscite in the same ethnic proportions as in 1988, which gave an absolute advantage to the Armenian side.