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Azerbaijan: statement by the pre-electoral delegation

A pre-electoral delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visited Baku on 21 and 22 September 2015 to assess the pre-election process and the preparations for the parliamentary elections to be held in Azerbaijan on 1 November 2015.

The delegation welcomed the openness of the Azerbaijani authorities and the invitation being extended to a large number of international organisations to observe the forthcoming parliamentary elections, including long-term observers from OSCE/ODIHR.

To the regret of the pre-electoral PACE mission, no agreement was reached between OSCE/ODIHR and the Azerbaijani authorities on the number of observers to be deployed and the methodology, so eventually this observation mission was cancelled by OSCE/ODIHR.

The PACE pre-electoral mission nevertheless insists on fully carrying out – even increasing – the PACE observation mission as scheduled, as observation of elections in a PACE member State under monitoring is an essential, even statutory, part of the PACE monitoring procedure. Moreover, the final report of the PACE electoral mission is a necessary tool for the Assembly, both as a basis for political debate on the conduct of the elections, and for maintaining institutional dialogue with the parliament of this state.

A large number of independent interlocutors stressed that progress has been made since the last parliamentary election five years ago, and that the country should not be isolated.

The pre-electoral mission delegation was informed by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) about the different stages of the preparation of the parliamentary elections. According to the CEC, no complaints have been submitted to it so far.

Representatives from the extra-parliamentary opposition highlighted the importance of equality of opportunity for all candidates, inter alia the collection of signatures in a free manner, and of preventing the misuse of administrative resources in favour of the ruling party. The PACE pre-electoral mission welcomes in particular the fact that some major opposition parties have decided to co-operate within a political alliance to enhance their chances of being elected.

Also during a round-table meeting with a large number of NGOs, human rights defenders and civil society activists, interlocutors unanimously called for this election observation mission by PACE to go ahead.

The election code envisages free airtime for all political parties on state television and radio, and free space in state-funded print media. In this respect, the PACE delegation underlines the great importance of ensuring freedom of expression and freedom of the media in order to ensure a level playing field for all participants and full transparency of the election process.

The PACE delegation was assured by representatives of the Azerbaijani authorities that all necessary measures will be undertaken to guarantee the transparency of the electoral process, including during the voting and counting procedure.

The delegation held meetings with the Speaker of the Parliament of Azerbaijan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, members of Azerbaijan’s delegation to PACE, the leaders and representatives of parliamentary groups and parties represented in the Parliament, the leaders and representatives of opposition parties not represented in the Parliament, the Chairman of the Central Election Commission, representatives of the diplomatic corps in Baku, and representatives of civil society and the media.

Members of the delegation:
Jordi Xuclà (Spain, ALDE), head of delegation
Aleksandar Nikoloski (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, EPP/CD)
Egemen Bağiş (Turkey, EC)
Agustín Conde (Spain, EPP/CD), rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee