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Statement by PACE Election Observation Mission on the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan on 1 November 2015

Statement by PACE Election Observation Mission on the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan on 1 November 2015

Strasbourg, 02.11.2015 – The Election Observation Mission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was invited by the Azerbaijani authorities to monitor the parliamentary elections on 1 November 2015.

The Mission comprised 28 members and was led by Jordi Xuclà (Spain, ALDE). The members were deployed in several areas of the country and the capital, Baku, and observed in a wide number of polling stations. The elections were held in accordance with the Election Code of Azerbaijan, which provides a legal framework for the democratic conduct of elections.

It is the consensus of this Mission that election day was calm and peaceful across the country. The voting process was observed to be adequate and generally in line with international standards. Voters had full and unimpeded access to polling stations and there were no incidents reported by the observers. The observation mission therefore congratulates the Azerbaijani people for their peaceful and orderly conduct during this electoral process. The Central Election Commission contributed to the transparency of the process by releasing updates from the opening of the polls until the end of the counting and tabulation of the results.

Based on the observations of the Mission and meetings with other stakeholders, it can be stated that the preparation for the elections and the voting processes were professionally and technically well organised. Observers noted improvements in the access of voters to information, the inclusiveness of voter registration and the quality of electoral materials.

Throughout election day, the Mission did not report any major or systemic violations of the Election Code. However, in a few polling stations minor ballot stuffing was observed. While the Mission could not establish the source or the responsibility for this, it deplores this practice and calls on the CEC to duly investigate and to report on this irregularity.

No acts of pressure on voters or any other incidents in or near the polling stations were observed. There was no police presence around the polling stations or any campaign and electoral materials nearby. A welcome development was the introduction of web cameras in 20 per cent of polling stations, as specifically requested by the Venice Commission. On the other hand, security cameras in schools should be covered in the future to fully ensure the privacy of the vote.

There was wide coverage of election day in local media.

During the count, some shortcomings mainly related to gaps in the expertise of electoral staff were observed, not however influencing the final result. The Mission urges the CEC to further improve the training of staff in this area.

Besides electoral issues, the Mission notes with regret that serious concerns in the sphere of human rights still remain in Azerbaijan as several human rights defenders and NGO activists are imprisoned on different charges.

The PACE mission notes the refusal of the European Parliament, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE/ODIHR to deploy their own observation missions. However, the EOM welcomes the presence of multiple local and international observers.

In conclusion, the delegation states that despite the above-mentioned shortcomings, the significant increase in voter turnout and the transparency of voting and counting procedures demonstrate another step forward taken by the Republic of Azerbaijan towards free, fair and democratic elections and that the results of this vote express the will of the Azerbaijani people.

However, the PACE EOM calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to urgently improve the situation on human rights and to continue the democratic development of the country after the elections. The Mission encourages the Azerbaijani authorities to take careful note of the recommendations made by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission and Resolution 2062 on the Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Azerbaijan approved by the Assembly on 23 June 2015.

The Mission also underlines the importance of the findings of other international organisations (the European Parliament, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE/ODIHR) regarding previous and current elections.

As Azerbaijan is a country under the Assembly’s monitoring procedure, this Mission recommends to the Assembly to continue its co-operation with the Azerbaijani authorities, in order for Azerbaijan to fulfill its obligations and commitments, as agreed during its accession to the Council of Europe.