Observation of the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan (7 November 2010)
Election observation report
| Doc. 12475
| 24 January 2011
- Ad hoc Committee of the Bureau
- Rapporteur :
- Mr Tadeusz IWIŃSKI,
1 The Bureau of the Parliamentary
Assembly decided, at its meeting on 21 June 2010, following an invitation
from the Chairman of the Milli Mejlis (Parliament) of the Republic
of Azerbaijan, to set up an ad hoc Committee of 30 members to observe
the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan (7 November 2010), and authorised
a pre-electoral mission consisting of five members, one from each
political group, who were also members of the ad hoc committee.
On 25 June 2010, the Bureau approved the composition of the ad hoc committee
and appointed Mr Paul Wille (Belgium, ALDE) as its Chairperson.
Following the proposals of the political groups, the ad hoc
committee was composed as follows (asterisks indicate those members
who also took part in the pre-electoral mission; Mr Giuseppe Galati cancelled
his participation on the eve of the mission):
- Group of the European People’s Party (EPP/CD):
- Pedro AGRAMUNT*, Spain
- Axel E. FISCHER, Germany
- Giuseppe GALATI, Italy
- Dariusz LIPIŃSKI, Poland
- Jean-Claude MIGNON, France
- Gebhard NEGELE, Liechtenstein
- Marietta DE POURBAIX-LUNDIN, Sweden
- Janusz RACHOŃ, Poland
- Özlem TÜRKÖNE, Turkey
- Egidijus VAREIKIS, Lithuania
- Socialist Group (SOC):
DEBONO GRECH, Malta
- Andreas GROSS, Switzerland
- Sinikka HURSKAINEN, Finland
- Tadeusz IWIŃSKI, Poland
- Francine JOHN-CALAME, Switzerland
- Pietro MARCENARO, Italy
- Patrick MORIAU, Belgium
- Yanaki STOILOV, Bulgaria
- Christoph STRÄSSER, Germany
- Lord John E. TOMLINSON, United Kingdom
- Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE):
- Anne BRASSEUR, Luxembourg
- Michael HANCOCK, United Kingdom
- Maximilian REIMANN, Switzerland
- Andrea RIGONI, Italy
- Paul WILLE*, Belgium
- European Democrat Group (EDG):
- Ruhi AÇIKGÖZ, Turkey
- Zmago JELINČIČ PLEMENITI, Slovenia
- Øyvind VAKSDAL*, Norway
- Robert WALTER, United Kingdom
- Group of the Unified European Left (UEL):
3 Mr Dronov and Ms Gastl provided secretarial support to the
ad hoc committee, including during its pre-electoral mission.
4 In accordance with the co-operation agreement between the
Assembly and the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice
Commission), the latter was invited to join this delegation. Mr
Serguei Kouznetsov, of the Venice Commission secretariat, provided
legal advice to the ad hoc committee.
5 The pre-electoral mission visited Baku from 19 to 22 October
2010. The delegation had meetings with the President of Azerbaijan,
Mr Ilham Aliev, the Chairman of the Central Election Commission
(CEC), the Chairman of the Constitutional Court, the Minister of
the Interior, as well as with a representative cross-section of
political parties and electoral blocs, civil society and the media.
It also had discussions with the Head of the OSCE ODIHR Election
Observation Mission and members of the diplomatic community. Regrettably, representatives
of an opposition bloc made up of Musavat and the Azerbaijan Popular
Front Party (APFP) refused to meet with the delegation, even though
the editor-in-chief of the Musavat Newspaper participated in our
round table discussion with media representatives.
6 In its statement issued at the end of the visit (Appendix
1), the pre-electoral mission welcomed the overall calm atmosphere
in the run-up to the elections. It commended improvements in the
work of the CEC, the voter education programme which it had launched,
and greater attention to the quality of the voters’ lists.
7 The pre-electoral mission also welcomed active involvement
of the Azerbaijani opposition in the electoral race, as well as
new possibilities created for non-governmental organisations to
be involved in the electoral procedures.
8 Yet, once again, the pre-electoral mission did not witness
a competition of substantive political ideas, platforms or approaches.
It regretted the lack of any public debate to help the electorate
make an educated choice on election day.
9 In its meetings with all the relevant Azerbaijani officials,
the pre-electoral mission voiced its concerns over allegations it
had heard from numerous interlocutors that the pre-electoral situation
was characterised by administrative pressures and difficulties relating
to candidate registration, as well as by harassment and even imprisonment
of some Internet bloggers and journalists.
10 While the existing legislation does provide for universal
suffrage in Azerbaijan, the pre-electoral mission noted that the
numerous Azerbaijanis residing abroad would only be able to vote
in the parliamentary elections if they returned to their constituencies
in the country on the voting day. It considered this compromised
the principle of universality of voting rights.
11 By the same token, it considered that people with disabilities
should have better possibilities to vote, for instance, through
the setting up of polling stations in hospitals.
12 The ad hoc committee conducted its observation mission from
5 to 7 November 2010 (see Appendix 2 for the programme of the visit).
On election day, the committee was split into 16 teams and observed
elections in and around Baku, Sumgait, and Sheki.
13 The ad hoc committee acted as part of an International Election
Observation Mission (IEOM) that also included delegations from the
Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, the European Parliament and
the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission. Relations with the parliamentary
partners were normal, though not always easy. The ad hoc committee
did, however, experience serious frictions and nearly insurmountable
difficulties in its interplay with the ODIHR.
14 A joint statement was presented by the Heads of the delegations
constituting the IEOM at a press conference held on 8 November 2010
15 At its meeting of 11 November 2010 in Antalya, the Bureau
appointed Mr Iwiński (Poland, SOC) to replace Mr Wille, who is no
longer a member of the Assembly, in presenting the report to the
2 Political background, legal
framework, candidate registration, election administration and election campaign
16 In accordance with the existing
Constitution, on 3 September 2010, the President of the Republic
of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, called parliamentary elections for 7
November 2010. Once again, elections took place in a political environment
characterised by a lack of dialogue between the ruling party, the
New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), and the main opposition parties, whatever
the reasons behind this. It will be recalled that the results of
the last parliamentary elections held in 2005 were not accepted
by some opposition parties. By way of protest, those parties subsequently
boycotted the partial repeat parliamentary elections in May 2006
and the October 2008 presidential election. This time, all the main
opposition parties opted to run in the 7 November 2010 vote.
17 Azerbaijan has a strong presidential system, with the executive
enjoying broader powers than the legislative. The outgoing parliament
was dominated by the YAP party, which held 64 seats out of a total
of 125. Deputies who had run as independent candidates held 45 seats.
These deputies habitually supported YAP. The opposition is heavily
fragmented and disunited. Musavat, the strongest opposition party,
had four seats in the outgoing Parliament. Some opposition parties,
including the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP), refused to
take up their seats in Parliament in the wake of the 2005 elections.
18 The primary legislation for the 2010 elections is codified
in the Constitution (last amended 2009) and the Election Code (enacted
in 2003, last amended in 2010). The legal framework also includes
the Law on the Freedom of Assembly (2008), the Law on Radio and
TV Broadcasting, the Code of Civil Procedures, as well as applicable
provisions in the Criminal Code, the Code of Administrative Offences,
and regulations of the CEC.
19 The latest amendments to the Election Code were introduced
as late as June 2010, with little public debate. The amendments
were adopted in a referendum that was observed,
inter alia, by the Assembly. They reduced the election
period from 75 to 60 days, shortened the campaign period, which
now started 23 days before the election day. Provisions under which
candidates received state funding were eliminated for this campaign.
The amendments did not, however, address longstanding recommendations
from the Council of Europe Venice Commission and the OSCE ODIHR,
in particular those relating to the composition of election commissions.
Arguably, this left room for the domination of pro-government forces
in the commissions. On the other hand, such a composition, although
unbalanced, ensured the functioning of the election commissions.
In the past, this was not the case, even though the system was more
balanced, as the opposition obstructed the commissions’ work.
20 The Election Code still contains inconsistencies and ambiguities,
not least relating to candidate eligibility, as well as to the complaints
and appeals process. In parliamentary elections, there is no provision
for Diaspora voting and no arrangements are provided for voting
21 In a positive development, amendments to the Code of Civil
Procedure, introduced in the wake of the 2008 presidential election
in accordance with the then Assembly election observation recommendations, eliminated
the conflict with the Election Code as regards the jurisdiction
of courts in election-related disputes.
22 Candidate nomination and registration was handled by constituency
election commissions (CONECs). Would-be candidates were nominated
by political parties or party blocs, by groups of voters or through
self-nomination. To register a candidate, a CONEC had to receive, inter alia, at least 450 valid support
signatures. Of the 1 115 prospective candidates, 743 were registered.
Following 52 withdrawals and one deregistration, 690 candidates
participated in the electoral race. Over half of the candidates
nominated by the opposition had their registrations rejected, while
all of the 111 YAP candidates were registered. The APFP-Musavat
bloc had 38 registered candidates out of 88 nominated, followed
by the Karabakh and Reform blocs with 34 and 31 registered candidates
out of 95 and 97 candidates nominated, respectively. Registration
denials were mostly due to the restrictive implementation of provisions
of the Election Code and other legislation and mostly concerned
the verification of support signatures.
23 The election administration in Azerbaijan is a three-tiered
structure consisting of the CEC, 125 CONECs and some 5 175 Precinct
Election Commissions (PECs). Eleven CONECs were looking after voters
from constituencies in the territories dealt with by the Minsk Conference
on Nagorno Karabakh. These CONECs served some 340 000 IDPs from
those territories. Under the Election Code, three equal quotas are
reserved in each commission for members nominated by the parliamentary
majority, parliamentarians elected as independent candidates, and
the parliamentary minority. By law, all commission chairpersons
are nominated by the parliamentary majority.
24 The CEC went to great lengths to ensure a smooth election
process. It worked transparently, launched an extensive voter education
campaign, including in the media. It provided training for CONECs
and PECs, as well as the police and local authorities. However,
it did not issue written instructions on the implementation of legal
provisions on the validity of citizens’ IDs in the context of support
signature collection. This may have contributed to the confusion
and the substantial number of registration denials.
25 The CEC worked in earnest to improve the centralised voter
register. Voters’ lists per polling station were put on the CEC
web site for the electorate to consult and act, as appropriate.
Voters’ data were verified on line and corrected, where necessary.
On the other hand, there remained a discrepancy between the CEC
data (4.8 million registered voters as at 13 October 2010), and
the State Statistics Committee (according to its own data, as at
1 January 2010, more than 6 million people eligible to vote were
residing in Azerbaijan).
26 As from 13 October 2010, voters’ lists could only be amended
by PECs, including on the election day. Following all verifications
and amendments, on the election day, the total number of registered
voters was 4 844 116.
27 The period preceding the official election campaign period
was characterised by a lack of visible political activities of political
parties. According to opposition representatives, this was due to
a restrictive interpretation of the Election Code with regard to
political rallies ahead of the official campaign period.
28 The executive allocated a number of venues for candidates
to conduct rallies and meetings. This rule applied to all, including
the ruling party. The opposition, however, claimed that the venues
were distant, hard to reach and hand picked to limit participation.
29 The campaign was calm, low-key and, seemingly, generated little
public interest. At the political party level, no public debate
between the ruling party and the opposition was organised. The use
of campaign materials was limited.
30 There were allegations of abuse of administrative resources.
According to the OSCE ODIHR, state employees in 19 constituencies
were campaigning for one particular candidate. By those accounts,
state employees were generally coerced to campaign for YAP.
3 Media environment
31 Despite a proliferation of
media outlets in Azerbaijan, there is a lack of independent reporting
in the electronic media. Printed media critical of the authorities
are scarce. Freedom of expression is in peril due to media harassment,
detentions, defamation lawsuits and other forms of pressure on journalists
and Internet bloggers. An opposition newspaper editor, Eynullah
Fatullaev, remains in prison despite a European Court of Human Rights
judgment that he should be released immediately. As a result, many
journalists resort to self-censorship.
32 Under the existing legislation, only political parties and
party blocs that succeed in getting more than 60 candidates registered
are entitled to free air time on public TV. Since no opposition
party or electoral bloc had more than 60 registered candidates,
only YAP was eligible for free airtime on public TV and free space
in State-owned newspapers. Therefore, the CEC took an unprecedented
decision to give each candidate four minutes of free airtime on
public TV. However, some candidates deliberately did not make use
of this decision. Contestants could also buy time for paid political
advertising. Two national TV channels offered this latter opportunity
and 15 candidates used it.
33 Campaign coverage in the news was limited, with TV channels
focusing on the procedural aspects of the electoral process. All
main TV channels provided extensive news coverage of the authorities'
initiatives, outside of the campaign context, reflecting positively
on the activities of State officials. Public TV news coverage of
state officials was reduced after the start of the campaign, but
they still benefited from considerable coverage.
34 The printed media, generally, provided a more diverse range
of views than the TV, with the state-funded newspapers, Azerbaijan, and Respublika demonstrating their clear
support for the authorities.
4 Election day
35 Election day was generally
calm and peaceful. However, tensions started building up closer
to the vote count.
36 Notwithstanding the CEC training and awareness-raising campaigns,
there were significant procedural violations and irregularities,
including ballot box stuffing.
37 Based on IEOM observers’ reports, opening procedures were
not respected in 21% of polling stations visited (1 100 out of a
total of 5 175). The most widely observed procedural violation concerned
finger inking, a safeguard against multiple voting. In 12% of polling
stations visited, the procedure was not followed at all, or followed
incorrectly. Observers reported 61 instances of ballot box stuffing,
95 instances of identical signatures on voters’ lists, carousel
voting in five polling stations. In 7% of polling stations visited,
the secrecy of the vote was not observed. 45% of polling stations
visited were difficult to access for voters with disabilities. International observers
were restricted in their observation in 114 polling stations.
38 International observers assessed the vote count negatively
in 31% of counts observed, with procedural errors reported from
a quarter of those counts. In over 11% of counts observed, the number
of ballot papers in ballot boxes was higher than the number of signatures
on the voters’ lists, 24 ballot boxes contained clumps or stacks
of ballots, suggesting ballot box stuffing.
39 Over 30% of PECs observed had difficulties completing the
results protocol. The results protocol had been pre-signed in 10
PECs. In 35% of counts observed, PECs did not post a copy of the
protocol for public scrutiny. In many cases, observers were not
given a copy of the protocol upon request.
5 Results of the elections
40 On 29 November 2010, the Constitutional
Court of Azerbaijan approved the CEC Protocol on the results of
the elections. The voter turnout was 49.56%. The following morning,
the new Parliament met to elect its Chair, Vice-Chairs and Committee
Chairs. The YAP Party received 71 seats, independent candidates
got 42 seats, the Party of Citizen’s Solidarity got three seats,
Ana Vatan Party got two seats, UMID, Citizen’s Union, Adalat, the
Party of Democratic Reforms, the Party of United Popular Front,
the Social Well-Being and the Party of Great Construction got one
41 Given the absence of proportional lists (as the elections
were held following the majority principle, the votes were cast
for individuals) it is practically impossible to establish the percentage
of votes obtained by specific political parties or different categories
of individual candidates. In some constituencies some members of
different parties or independent candidates obtained around 70%
or even more than 90%, whereas in others it was usually around 50-60%.
42 According to the CEC, 15 complaints were received on the voting
day and 165 complaints thereafter.
43 The ad hoc committee noted
that the parliamentary elections held on 7 November in Azerbaijan
were peaceful, in a welcome departure from the ways of the past.
The opposition participated and was making efforts at forging electoral
44 All opposition members participated in the work of the CEC
which, generally speaking, conducted its work efficiently and transparently.
45 Of the 172 candidates who had been denied registration and
who appealed, 43 were reinstated.
46 A very high number of international (1 029) and domestic (48 000)
observers were registered; international observers enjoyed good
co-operation with the CEC. In this sense, Azerbaijan has demonstrated its
openness to international scrutiny.
47 The share of female candidates increased from 10 to 13% compared
to the last parliamentary elections, the number of female MPs in
the newly-elected parliament increased from 14 to 19.
48 At the same time, a deficient candidate registration process
at the constituency level led to the registration of all nominated
candidates from the ruling party and less than half of the opposition
49 The ad hoc committee heard credible allegations of intimidation
of voters and candidates, as well as abuse of administrative resources.
The ad hoc committee is happy to state that the two imprisoned bloggers were
released on 18 November 2010.
50 The ad hoc committee regretted that legal recommendations
by the Venice Commission and the OSCE ODIHR remain unaddressed in
the Election Code. Furthermore, legal remedies against decisions
on election-related complaints are often untimely and ineffective
and are not reasoned.
51 The ad hoc committee calls for more balanced media behaviour
in the electoral context.
52 The Azerbaijani authorities are encouraged to consider introducing
provisions for Diaspora voting in the interests of universality
of suffrage. By the same token, provisions need to be introduced
for setting up polling stations in hospitals to facilitate voting
for the sick and disabled. This would foreclose potential conflicts
with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
53 The ad hoc committee strongly believes that the opposition
has a share of its responsibility in the absence of a vibrant public
debate in Azerbaijan; the opposition should focus on real issues
rather than on egocentric petty politicking.
54 Based on these findings, the ad hoc committee, whilst stating
that the whole election process showed progress in reaching Assembly
and OSCE standards and commitments, is, however, convinced that
significant progress would still be necessary to reach an overall
electoral and democratic consensus in Azerbaijan.
55 The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly stand
prepared to continue co-operation with Azerbaijan in further improving
its democratic system.
Appendix 1 –
Statement by PACE pre-election delegation visiting Azerbaijan
Strasbourg, 21.10.2010 – A five-member, cross-party
delegation (*) from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of
Europe (PACE) visiting Azerbaijan ahead of the 7 November parliamentary
elections has welcomed an overall calm atmosphere in the run-up
to the elections. “This is a positive departure from the ways of
the past where electoral campaigns were marred by violence and mutual
recriminations,” the delegation said. “Improvements in the work
of the Central Election Commission, the voter education programme
launched by it, and greater attention to the quality of the voters’
lists, should be commended.”
The delegation continued: “In a welcome development and in
contrast to some earlier elections, the Azerbaijani opposition is
actively involved in the electoral race. It is making attempts at
forging electoral blocs and trying to overcome competing individual
agendas. Building electoral alliances is usually part and parcel
of a democratic process. The delegation also welcomes the new possibilities
created for non-governmental organisations to be involved in the
Yet, once again, the PACE delegation has not witnessed a competition
of substantive political ideas, platforms or approaches. Furthermore,
this is exacerbated by the lack of any public debate (including
TV debates) that would help the electorate to make an educated choice
on election day.
The delegation was also concerned about allegations that the
pre-electoral situation is characterised by administrative pressures
and difficulties relating to candidate registration. Harassment
of some journalists and bloggers, instances of which were brought
to the attention of the delegation, is not conducive to a constructive dialogue
within society. Corrective action is urgently needed.
While the existing legislation does provide for universal
suffrage in Azerbaijan, the very numerous Azerbaijanis residing
abroad will only be able to vote in the parliamentary elections
if they return to their constituencies in the country on voting
day. This compromises the principle of universality of voting rights.
Also, people with disabilities should have better possibilities
to vote, for instance through the setting up of polling stations
A comprehensive compendium of earlier PACE proposals to improve
the electoral process in Azerbaijan can be found, inter alia, in PACE Resolution 1750 (2010) on the functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan.
Finally, the delegation calls on Baku to rectify the situation
with entry visas for observers. If, contrary to official declarations,
those cannot be issued upon arrival, this should be made known to
would-be observers for them to avoid unpleasant surprises en route
The delegation was in Baku from 18 to 21 October 2010 at the
invitation of the Speaker of the Milli Majlis and will return, as
part of a full-scale, 30-member PACE delegation, to observe actual
voting. The delegation had meetings with the President of Azerbaijan
Ilham Aliev, the Chairman of the Central Election Commission, the Chairman
of the Constitutional Court, the Minister of the Interior, as well
as with a representative cross-section of political parties and
electoral blocs, civil society and the media. It also had discussions
with the Head of the OSCE ODIHR Election Observation Mission and
members of the diplomatic community.
* The delegation was made up of Paul Wille (Belgium, ALDE),
Head of Delegation, Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD), Tadeusz Iwinski
(Poland, SOC), Øyvind Vaksdal (Norway, EDG) and Jaakko Laakso (Finland,
Appendix 2 –
Programme of the pre-election mission (19 to 22 October 2010)
19 October 2010
09:00-10:00 Delegation Meeting
10:00-11.00 Meeting with Ms Veronika KOTEK, SRSG of the Council
of Europe to Azerbaijan
11:00-12:00 Meeting with the OSCE/ODIHR EOM:
- Mr Stefan Krause, Deputy Head
- Mr Alexey Gromov, Election analyst
- Ms Marian Gabriel, Political analyst
- Mr Rasto Kuzel, Media analyst
14:00-15:00 Meeting with Mr Mazahir Panahov, Chairperson of
15:15-16:00 Meeting with the National Delegation of Azerbaijan
to the Parliamentary Assembly
16:00-17:00 Meeting with Mr. Ogtay Asadov, Speaker of the
Parliament of Azerbaijan
17:15 Meeting with Ambassadors of Council of Europe member
states and the European Union Ambassador:
- Belgium: Mr Philippe Jottard
- France: Mr Gabriel Keller
- Norway: Mr Erling Skjonsberg
- Poland: Mr Jan Brodowski, Political Officer
- Russian Federation: Mr Yevgeniy Verlin, First Secretary
- European Union Delegation: Mr Manfredas Limantas, Political
09:00-13:00 Individual meetings with the Political Parties
09:00-09:30 Ana Vatan Party:
09:30-10:00 "Democracy" bloc composed of Civil Solidarity
Party and Democratic Reforms Party:
- Mr Asim Mollazade, Chairperson, Democratic Reforms Party
10:10-10:40 Azerbaijan National Independence Party (ANIP):
- Mr Arzukhan Alizade, Secretary
10:40-11:10 "For People" bloc composed of the Liberal Party,
the Citizen and Development Party and the Green Party:
- Mr Avaz Temirkhan, Chairperson,
- Mr Ali Aliyev, Chairperson, Citizen and Development Party
- Mr Mais Gulaliyev, Chairperson, Green Party
11:20-11:50 "Karabakh" bloc composed of Umid Party, Azerbaijan
Democratic Party and Aydinlar Party:
- Mr Igbal Agazade, Chairperson, Umid party
- Mr Sardar Jalaloglu, Chairperson, Azerbaijan Democratic
- Mr Gulamhuseyn Alibeyli, Chairperson, Aydinlar Party
11:50-12:20 "Reforms" bloc composed of the United Azerbaijan
Popular Front Party, the Great Establishment Party and the Adalet
- Mr Niyamaddin Ordukhanov,
Deputy Chairman, United Azerbaijan Popular Front Party
- Mr Elkhan Shukurlu, Deputy Chairman, Adalet party
12:30-13:00 Yeni Azerbaijan Party
- Mr Hikmet Mammadov, Editor-in-Chief of Yeni Azerbaijan
14:30-15:30 Meeting with Mr Farhad Abdullayev, Chairperson
of the Constitutional Court
15:40 Meeting with NGO representatives (Round table format)
15:40-16:15 Azerbaycanda Vatandash Camiyyetine Yardim Assosiasiyasi
(AVCIYA) (Association for Support to the Civil Society in Azerbaijan),
16:20-17:00 – Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre,
Azer Gasimov, lawyer
– Law and Development Public Association, Hafiz Hasanov,
17.00 Meeting with media representatives (round table format)
17:00-18:00 – “Azeri-Press” Information Agency (APA), Ms
Vusala Mahir qizi, Director General
- “Baki Xeber” newspaper, Mr Aydin Guliyev, Editor-in-Chief
- “Trend” Information Agency, Mr Emil Huseynli
- “525-ci qezet” newspaper, Mr Rashad Majid, Editor-in-Chief
18:00-19:00 – Azadliq newspaper, Mr Ganimat Zahid, Editor-in-Chief
- Yeni Musavat newspaper, Mr Rauf
- Zerkalo newspaper, Mr Elchin Shikhli, Editor-in-Chief
19:00-20:00 Public TV, Mr Ismail Omarov, Director General
09:45 Meeting with Mr Ramil Usubov, Ministry of Internal Affairs
10:00-11:00 Meeting with Mr Ilham Aliyev, President of the
Republic of Azerbaijan
13.00 -14.00 Press Conference
elections were peaceful and the opposition participated, but the
process overall was not sufficient to constitute meaningful progress
in democratic development
Strasbourg, 08.11.2010 – Yesterday’s parliamentary elections
in Azerbaijan were characterised by a peaceful atmosphere and all
opposition parties participated in the political process, but the
conduct of these elections overall was not sufficient to constitute
meaningful progress in the democratic development of the country, international
observers said in a statement issued today.
The observers noted that the Central Election Commission overall
administered the technical aspects of the electoral process well.
But limitations of media freedom and freedom of assembly, and a
deficient candidate registration process, further weakened the opposition
and made vibrant political discourse almost impossible. This and
a restricted competitive environment created an uneven playing field
for candidates, making it difficult for voters to make an informed
choice. On the positive side, voters had the opportunity to check
the centralised voter register and request correction or inclusion,
and the CEC conducted a voter education campaign, including in the
media. Voting on election day was assessed positively in almost
90 per cent of the polling stations visited, while serious problems
were noted in 10 per cent. Counting deteriorated, with almost a
third of polling stations observed rated bad or very bad, with worrying
problems like ballot box stuffing noted in a number of places.
“It is never easy to do justice to a country which is developing
its democratic institutions, especially in a difficult environment.
We have seen the many efforts made to make progress and the areas
in which the country does very well, and we welcome them as much
as the hospitality demonstrated by all our interlocutors. However, despite
all the efforts made, the country needs to do much more to make
progress in developing a truly pluralist democracy,” said Wolfgang
Grossruck, who led the short-term OSCE observer mission and headed
the delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
“In a welcome departure from the past, the run-up to the elections
and election day were peaceful and not marred by violent incidents,
all opposition parties opted to participate in the political process,
sometimes running as part of electoral blocs, rather than to boycott
it, as was the case in the past. A positive environment was created
by good co-operation between the authorities, international institutions
and the domestic actors,” said Paul Wille, head of the delegation
of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).
“Economic growth and stability are evident in Azerbaijan.
Sustainability of this situation can only be reinforced by greater
political liberalisation and democratisation of the country. Independent
observers have reported vote count irregularities, harassment of
opposition observers and ballot box stuffing. Azerbaijan has to
make further efforts to ensure greater democratisation,” said Anneli
Jäätteenmaki, Head of the delegation of the European Parliament.
“Regrettably, our observation of the overall process shows
that the conditions necessary for a meaningful democratic election
were not established. We are particularly concerned about restrictions
of fundamental freedoms, media bias, the dominance of public life
by one party, and serious violations on election day. We stand ready
to assist the authorities in moving Azerbaijan’s elections towards
meeting OSCE commitments,” said Ambassador Audrey Glover, Head of
the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission.
Jens-Hagen Eschenbächer, OSCE/ODIHR, +994 (0) 502252281 or
+48 603 683 122, email@example.com
Petra Jezkova, OSCE PA, +994 (0) 502507318 or +45 6010 8173, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vladimir Dronov, PACE, +994 (0) 507833741 or +33 663 49 37
Alina Alexandra Georgescu, EP, +994 (0) 502255584 or +32 498
981 364, email@example.com