SP in disputed areas and other territories (1) – Nagorno-Karabakh

This is the first of an occasional series on semi-presidentialism in areas other than internationally recognised states. I am focusing on areas that have full constitutions. However, these areas are not recognised by the international community as independent states. They may be territories that have declared independence but whose status has not been internationally recognised or they may simply be self-governing units under the protection of another state – territories like Greenland, or the Isle of Man.

The first example is Nagorno-Karabakh. This region is officially part of Azerbaijan. It has a substantial Armenian population. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature declared independence. However, this was not recognised by either Azerbaijan or the international community. There has been ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over this region since this time and indeed well before. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has a high degree of de facto independence.

In December 2006 a referendum was held that approved a constitution for the territory. The result of the vote was not internationally recognised. However, given the area enjoys a degree of de facto autonomy, political leaders within the area have declared it to be the basic constitutional document governing the area. The text is available here. (Prior to the referendum my understanding is that the territory used a series of laws to govern its internal affairs and that there was no consolidated constitutional document).

The 2006 constitution has clear semi-presidential elements:

Article 62
1. The President of the Republic shall be elected by the citizens of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic for a five-year term of office.
Article 99 
3. The Government shall be composed of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Ministers.
Article 97
1. The National Assembly may adopt by a majority vote of no confidence towards the Government.

However, it is not entirely clear what happens if a vote of no-confidence is passed. There is also a quite complicated role for the legislature in the appointment of the prime minister and government (Article 100).

The most recent presidential election was in July 2007. The winner was Bako Sahakyan, who ran as an independent and who won over 85% of the vote. The last legislative election was held in June 2005. I believe the government is a coalition of the Democratic Party of Artsakh and the Free Motherland party. The opposition appears to have only 3 seats in the 32-seat legislature.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are, of course, themselves semi-presidential.

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