Screenshot of a video posted by Arshak Zakaryan, a
videographer who works with the Armenian Ministry of Defense, showing
the portion of Haramı Düzü, or "forbidden plain," where 5 Azerbaijani
soldiers died on February 25. White arrow points to the location of the
bodies between the Azerbaijani (left) and Armenian (right) trenches.
At least five Azerbaijani servicemen were killed on February 25 in
the worst flare-up of fighting over Nagorno Karabakh since last April.
As per usual, the Armenian and Azerbaijani press services published
versions of the incident at odds with one another.
The renewed violence comes as spring approaches and many fear an even
more serious bout of fighting than last April's, in which more than 200
were killed, itself the worst fighting since the ceasefire was signed
A February 21 meeting of Azerbaijan's Security
Council at which Azerbaijan's first vice president, first lady Mehriban
Aliyeva, was introduced. (photo: president.az)
President Ilham Aliyev’s February 21 announcement that from now on his wife Mehriban Aliyeva will be the country’s first vice-president elicited a good deal of mockery, including the inevitable comparisons to the plotline of the TV series House of Cards.
But beyond the jokes, the move appears to be the result of a deadly
serious tussle for power and influence within the ruling regime. While
intra-government cleavages have existed since Aliyev succeeded his
father in 2003, these tensions have intensified in recent years amid an
economic crisis and a substantial drop in Azerbaijan’s energy revenues.
President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia and de facto
president Baho Sahakyan of Nagorno Karabakh at a joint meeting in 2016.
On February 20, the de facto republic of Nagorno Karabakh will hold a referendum on a new constitution
that would change the form of government from semi-presidential to a
fully presidential. It would also, as a result, allow incumbent
president Bako Sahakyan to retain his post beyond the current limit of
two five-year terms.
Unusually frigid February weather aside, Armenia's politics is
thawing out of its traditional winter slumber unseasonably early as it
looks ahead to an April 2 election that now appears far less predictable
than it had just a couple of months ago.
As in four preceding parliamentary elections, the ruling Republican
Party (RPA) is the presumptive favorite. But a half dozen alliances and
individual political parties are expected to offer some real competition
for seats in the new National Assembly. Pre-election buzz is real,
horse trading is in full swing, and even long-disappeared politicos are
reemerging to seek out places for themselves in the electoral lists.
What makes this election different is the new constitutional
framework that calls for transition of executive power from incumbent
president Serzh Sargsyan – who completes his term a year from now – to a
prime minister selected by parliamentary majority. That ups the stakes
in these elections, and the buzz is all around three individual
Leading members of the Armenian Diaspora are looking to take on a
greater role in how Armenia is run. In a recent full-page ad published
in The New York Times, 23 Diaspora personalities from around the world
appealed to their compatriots to make “a long-term commitment toward
collectively advancing” Armenia.