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A constitutional referendum was held in the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 20 February 2017. At least 25% of registered voters needed to vote in favour in order to validate the result. The referendum passed with about three quarters of voters voting.
President Bako Sahakyan created a commission to draft a new constitution to replace the 2006 constitution. The draft was delivered on 24 November 2016 and approved by the National Assembly on 17 January by a vote of 20–7. On 19 January, Sahakyan set the referendum date.
The constitutional changes would result in the name "Artsakh Republic" being officially adopted for the unrecognised country and used alongside its current name, as well as in abolishing the office of the Prime Minister and giving more power to the President to make quicker decisions on security.
Levon Galustyan, an MP from the unrecognised country of Abkhazia and an observer at the referendum, said the idea for a name change was brought forward after Nagorno-Karabakh politicians had expressed worry that the use of the name "Artsakh" and "Nagorno-Karabakh" by Azerbaijan for its athletic teams and artistic initiatives abroad might create the wrong impression of the region's reality.
The government of Azerbaijan, which Nagorno-Karabakh is officially part of but which lost de facto control of the region following the Nagorno-Karabakh War, condemned the referendum calling it a "provocation" and counter-productive for the conflict resolution process. The government also issued an international arrest warrant for three Members of the European Parliament who acted as observers at the referendum.
The OSCE Minsk Group, the official mediator of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stated that the results of the referendum would not change the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The governments of several countries stated that they did not recognise the referendum, including Germany, Georgia, Ukraine, and Turkey.