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Korybko: Baku isn't meddling in the Armenian elections

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12 Punto 14 Punto 16 Punto 18 Punto presents the article "Pashinyan's wrong, Azerbaijan isn't meddling in the Armenian elections" by Andrew Korybko.

Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of attempting to meddle in his country's upcoming elections by staging alleged border provocations. This false claim is intended to portray himself as a victim in order to court more votes from nationalists who might have stopped supporting him as a result of last year's disastrous loss in the Karabakh War. As it presently stands, Armenians are divided over their support for the incumbent premier, with some blaming him personally for losing Karabakh while others attribute that outcome to other factors such as their armed forces' unpreparedness for modern warfare.

The recent border scandals aren't Azerbaijan's fault, but Armenia's, which provoked them in order to establish the pretext for delaying the reopening of all regional economic and transport corridors in accordance with the relevant clause of last November's Russian-mediated ceasefire. It was expected that there might be differences of interpretation over the exact border between these neighboring nations seeing as how Azerbaijan was unable to exercise sovereignty over this part of its foreign frontier owing to the nearly three-decade-long Armenian occupation of Karabakh and the surrounding regions.

Nevertheless, Azerbaijan is eager to settle these disputes peacefully and as soon as possible, hence why Prime Minister Asadov said over the weekend that his country is in support of Russia's proposal to set up a trilateral commission on the delimitation and demarcation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. This proves without a doubt that Azerbaijan is a responsible regional player that doesn't harbor the aggressive intentions that Armenia accuses it of. It also puts the ball in Armenian's court to see whether Yerevan will go along with this Moscow-led initiative or perhaps seek to delay it until at least sometime shortly after the elections.

Another observation that can be made about Pashinyan's comments is that they align with the recent trend of countries accusing their rivals of meddling in their democratic processes. It was the US that took this to the extreme over the past four years of former President Trump's tenure during which time the Democrats claimed that the Commander in Chief was actually a Russian puppet. It's seen been determined that those accusations were nothing more than a conspiracy theory, but the damage was already done to the American political processes. Similarly, Pashinyan is at risk of inflicting similar damage on his country's own such processes.

Although the meddling narrative, in this case, is somewhat different, seeing as how it's related more to the domestic political impact of border scandals as opposed to actually running a so-called “Trojan Horse” candidate, it could still discredit the Armenian elections especially if he loses. It wouldn't be surprising if Pashinyan hypes up his meddling claims in the aftermath of such a scenario in order to portray his possible successor as an Azerbaijani puppet. In reality, however, it's unlikely that anyone comparatively more “moderate” than him would win since his greatest challenge comes from ultra-nationalist forces.

Supporters of those parties are ridiculously convinced that it might actually be Pashinyan himself who's the alleged puppet since they blame what they regard as his inexplicable incompetence during last year's war for Armenia's' disastrous loss. They're also suspicious of why he agreed to last year's Russian-mediated ceasefire which also importantly mandates the unblocking of all regional economic and transport corridors, the legal responsibility of which he's been trying to wiggling himself out of respecting ever since. In truth, that clause would eventually unlock Armenia's regional connectivity potential, so it's strange that he's not in support of it.

It might very well be that he realizes how counterproductive it is for his country's long-term economic vision to remain as isolated as it presently is by voluntarily keeping itself cut off from most of the region, but just that he sought to play up the nationalist card ahead of the upcoming elections. If everything goes as he plans, then he might pragmatically step back from his political brinksmanship and finally comply with his international legal responsibilities as stipulated by last year's ceasefire. Should he lose, however, then it's unclear whether his successor would respect that agreement, which could lead to unpredictable consequences if they don't.

In any case, it's ridiculous for either side of the Armenian political divide to claim that any of their country's candidates are secretly supported by Azerbaijan. Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming elections, Azerbaijan will continue to request that Armenia complies with its obligation to unblock all regional economic and transport corridors. Russia is expected to also pragmatically work with whoever is in power there owing to the fact that the two nations are mutual defense allies through the CSTO. The world will soon enough see if Pashinyan's nationalist provocations win him re-election or if they only serve to boost his opponents instead.

2021.05.31 / 15:26
Andrew Korybko
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