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ODIHR publishes final report on Azerbaijani Presidential Election.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE (ODIHR), has published its final report on the Presidential Elections held in Azerbaijan in October. The Interim Report of the ODIHR International Observation Mission was critical of the election process which it assessed negatively. The Azerbaijani authorities on their part criticised the report and rejected its findings.

The final report highlights serious shortcomings, including in the legislation, in the pre-election environment and during the voting and counting process and makes recommendations to the Azerbaijani government for addressing them.

More…

Georgia has a new President, and starts a new page in its history.

Giorgi Margvelashvili

Giorgi Margvelashvili

Georgia has a new President. Following Presidential elections held on Sunday that passed without any major incidents, Giorgi Margvelashvili, the candidate of the Georgian Dream coalition that hold the government and a majority in parliament, has emerged as the outright winner according to various opinion polls. The runner up, and candidate of the United National Movement, David Bakradze, has conceded defeat and congratulated Margvelashvili on his victory.

Turnout in the election was lower than in the Parliamentary elections in 2012 but enough to ensure that a re-run is not necessary.

This is a turning point for Georgia in all kinds of ways, and set a completely unprecedented and unique pattern of doing politics in the Caucasus region. Whilst Georgia has now turned the page in its modern political history a new set of leadership, quite unknown to the Georgian public are set to take the front line. Georgia still faces many serious problems, political, institutional and most of all economic. Yet the new leadership have a unique opportunity to build a new future for the Caucasus republic.

There will be more on the Georgian elections on Caucasus Elections Watch over the coming days.

Polling closes in Georgian Presidential election.

16.00 GMT: polling has closed in Georgia’s Presidential election. Turnout was considerably lower than at Parliamentary elections last year. There were reports from domestic election monitoring organisations of isolated cases of violations, and a serious case where a group of around 250 voters were not on the voters list in Adjara.

13.00 GMT:  Georgians wait in anticipation to see what will be the result of the first election that will see their President being replaced through a normal electoral process. By 15.00 hpours local time the central Elections commission was reporting that 32.05% of the electorate had cast their vote. This is a significant 13% less than the number of those who voted by the same time during the parliamentary elections last year. The lowest turnout is reported in the mainly Azerbaijani speaking regions of Khvemo Kartli

10.30 GMT: Voter turnout in Georgian Presidential elections was 17.5% by 12 noon - compared to 25% at the same time in Parliamentary elections in 2012.  Commentators have noted that the lowest turnout so far is in the mainly Azerbaijani populated region of Khvemo Kartli. This region was infamous throughout the last two decades for abuses during voting, including ballot stuffing and multiple voting. A low voter turnout may for the first time reflect the reality, namely an Azerbaijani speaking population that often feels marginalised and far away from the political processes in the Tbilisi.  According to the Georgian CEC 58593 representing 14.4% of the electorate, had cast their vote by 12 noon.

08.15 GMT: 240,732 voters had cast their ballot in the first two hours of voting in Georgia this morning, according to a briefing by the Central Elections Commission. This constitutes 6.8% of the electorate. Although compared to the same amount of people voting in the same period in the Parliamentary elections in 2012 this figure is low, commentators think that the early turnout in 2012 was due to the highly charged political atmosphere of that time and that the current vote trend is more in line with previous election patterns where voting peaked around lunchtime.

07.00 GMT:  Presidential Elections are taking place in Georgia. 23 candidates are contesting for the post of Head of States.

All polling stations opened on time at 8.00 am and the election process is under way in a clam atmosphere, the Central Election Commission, said at a briefing on Sunday morning.

3, 537, 719 voters are eligible to cast their ballot. They can do so in 3, 689 election precincts in Georgia itself and 50 election precincts abroad.

The Presidential Elections will be observed by 47,000 election candidates and political party representatives, as well as by nearly 20,000 local and 1,300 international observers. The election process will be covered by 1,400 media representatives.

Commentary: Will Bidzina do a Nelson, or will he do a Sonia?

No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.

No soft touch. Bidhzina Ivanishvili is a shrewd self-made man.

In this commentary Dennis Sammut says that Bidzina Ivanishvili is an enigmatic and often misunderstood leader who has been able to change Georgian politics in a very short time, and that despite his announced political retirement he is likely to remain a very significant person in Georgian public life.

Bidzina Ivanishvili’s announcement that he will resign as prime minister and retire from mainstream politics one week after the presidential election on 27 October has left Georgians and everybody else astonished and bewildered, even though he had previously hinted that that is what he will do. More…

Georgians young and old are trying to make sense of an election that will bring closure to a difficult chapter in their country's modern political history

Editorial Comment: All for Georgians to lose!

The 27 October presidential election should bring political closure to twenty-five years of political upheaval, and can give Georgia what it aspires for. But there are some final tests yet.

Compared to previous elections in Georgia, the process of selecting a new president for the country on 27 October has proceeded without major problems. One week before the polls the main threat to the free expression of the will of the Georgian people seems to be apathy, rather than election fraud or manipulation.

Georgia’s political journey over the last twenty-five years has been tumultuous. The events on 9 April 1989, when Soviet OMON forces killed peaceful civilians on Rustaveli Avenue broke the unwritten accord between the Georgians and the Soviet leadership which had seen Georgia getting the best possible deal out of the Soviet system in return for political acquiescence. Ever since, Georgian politics has been a roller coaster of upheavals. Euphoria and disappointment alternated in regular short cycles, with wars, rebellion, revolution and repression added in for good measure. Yet this era of Georgian politics seems now to be coming to a close.

Georgia has had three presidents since it eventually regained its independence in December 1991 when the Soviet Union unceremoniously disintegrated. Most Georgians these days find it difficult to talk highly of any of them. More…

Ilham Aliev at the swearing in ceremony marking the start of his third term as President of Azerbaijan.

Ilham Aliev sworn in for third term.

Ilham Aliev was sworn in for his third term as President of Azerbaijan at a simple ceremony held in the Parliament of Azerbaijan attended by Members of Parliament, State officials and others.

Earlier the result of the 9th October Presidential election was confirmed at a special session of the Constitutional Court. The decision of the Constitutional Court based on the final report of the Central Elections Commission stated that Ilham Aliyev won the presidential election held on October 9 having gained 84.54 percent (3,126,113) voters.

Farhad Abdullayev, President of the Constitutional Court read out the Constitutional Court’s decision.

Other candidates received the following number of votes:

Jamil Hasanli – 5.53 percent (204,642 votes)

Iqbal Aghazade – 2.40 percent (88,723 votes)

Gudret Hasanguliyev – 1.99 percent (73,702 votes)

Zahid Oruj – 1.46 percent (53,839 votes)

Ilyas Ismayilov – 1.07 percent (39,722 votes)

Araz Alizade – 0.87 percent (32,069 votes)

Faraj Guliyev – 0.86 percent (31,926 votes)

Hafiz Hajiyev – 0.66 percent (24,461 votes)

Sardar Mammadov – 0.61 percent (22,773 votes).

source: Caucasus Elections Watch with Trend News Agency (Baku)

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After problematic election, Azerbaijan remains stuck in a twilight zone between democracy and authoritarianism.

Commentary.

The Presidential election held in Azerbaijan on 9 October, and the political situation that emerges as a result of it, can be summed up in one word: problematic. That this election failed in some respects from meeting widely accepted international standards is clear to those who want to make a dispassionate assessment. Some problems observed in all elections that have taken place in Azerbaijan in the last decade have persisted, and the leadership of the Central Elections Commission, which has remained largely unchanged for the whole period, seems unwilling or unable to correct them.

Context, process and outcome.

The context in which the election was held was far from ideal. The reports of organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the terse but clear concerns expressed by the leadership of the European Union, and the concerns of big sections of the international media, may have been dismissed lightly by the Azerbaijani authorities, but in their totality they provide a negative picture of the context in which the election was held that is serious enough to impact the evaluation of the event on 9 October itself. There was some improvement in the situation in the three week run up to the election which saw the opposition allowed to voice its opinions on national television and to mobilise in the streets.

There were also other issues worth noting, for example the odd way in which the incumbent Ilham Aliev decided to run his campaign, and the late but effective way in which the opposition managed to rally around the candidacy of Camil Hasanly. Hasanly himself gave his all, and was more effective than many had thought he would be. The opposition however failed to mobilise a critical mass for its activities. Part of this was due to the opposition’s own limitations, and part due to the very clear dangers faced by those who publicly associate themselves with the opposition. There is however another factor at play which the opposition with its rhetoric seems to have failed to understand: most Azerbaijanis, regardless of whether they like Aliev or not, do not want to go back to the chaos of the 1990s. Whilst the government cleverly plays on this feeling, the opposition seems to be oblivious to its importance.

Shortcomings in the election process itself were noted, and will no doubt be the subject of reporting by the more credible election monitoring organisations. The attitude of the CEC to be meticulous where its suits it, and brush aside serious shortcomings when it does not, contributes to the undermining of trust in the process.

The provisional result of the election gives the incumbent President 84.73% of the vote with a 72.31% voter turnout. Given the context and the process this result, which in any normal election context would be considered exaggerated, may not be the most contentious part of the outcome. A victory for Ilham Aliev with a wide margin was anticipated and predicted. The pattern of what happened on election-day and in the counting process in this, as in previous elections in Azerbaijan, was chequered.

A twilight zone that has become a comfort zone.

The result of all this is an unsatisfactory outcome. The Azerbaijani authorities have over the last decade positioned themselves in a twilight zone between democracy and authoritarianism. This election proves what some had been worrying about for some time, that this twilight zone has now become the authorities comfort zone. However this election has in many ways proven that this situation is not sustainable. President Aliev will now have to decide very soon in which direction he wants to take his country. His speech on election night gives us little indication of what his choice will be. But once the dust of the election campaign has settled down, there will be important and crucial decisions to make that will define his place in Azerbaijani history.

Source: CEW editorial team

ODIHR publishes its second interim report on Azerbaijani elections

OSCE_ODIHR_logo_Album_110612On 1 October the ODIHR Election Observation Mission for the forthcoming presidential election in Azerbaijan published its second interim report which covers the period from 12-26 September 2013.

The report notes that “the official campaign began on 16 September and while it has been generally calm, it has been marred by some reported incidents of intimidation of family members of political figures. To date, the campaign has lacked substantive debate and has focused on personality rather than concrete political platforms. More…

On the morning of 10 October Azerbaijani politics cannot be rolled back into the bottle, to wait for the next election.

Azerbaijan’s ridiculously young, but amazingly talented, most famous photojournalist, Mehman Husseynov.

Testing the political space: Azerbaijan’s ridiculously young, but
amazingly talented, most famous photojournalist,
Mehman Husseynov.

There are now only a few days left before the Presidential election in Azerbaijan on 9 October. Over the last two weeks the “political space” in the country opened up somewhat, with plurality of views expressed on television and on the streets. The wisdom of the Azerbaijani government in keeping political feelings that it does not like bottled up, and only let it come out during narrow windows ahead of elections, is very doubtful strategically, and unacceptable for many democrats.

The result is the odd campaign that has been witnessed so far. The incumbent President Ilham Aliev is expected to win. He decided not to campaign directly, even if he is seen every day on television “looking presidential”. His party, the New Azerbaijan Party has conducted the campaign on his behalf. It was efficient, sufficiently  glitzy, but overall boring.

Of the other nine candidates only one is actually challenging the incumbent. Camil Hasanli was brought late and unexpectedly to the forefront to represent the mainstream  opposition. He has so far performed better than expected. More…

Aliev addresses issue of corruption in a speech a few days before election. “Transparency, honesty and truth must become a way of life.”

President Aliev's election campaign projects him as a visionary leader.

President Aliev’s election campaign projects him as a visionary leader.

President Ilham Aliev has addressed the issue of corruption in Azerbaijan in a tough speech a few days before presidential elections. Corruption has been one of the issues raised by the opposition candidate Camil Hasanli during his television broadcasts as part of the election campaign. Although Aliev is not participating himself in the election debates he has made numerous speeches, usually whilst opening new government facilities.

One such event happened on 30 September  when Aliev opened the new offices of the Anti corruption unit within the prosecutors’ office and this gave him the opportunity to address the issue of corruption head-on.

The following is an extract of his speech: More…

Camil Hasanli: the unlikely “man on the white horse”.

A cartoon of Camil Hassanli slaying a hydra-headed monster representing the other presidential candidates that have ganged up against him has caught the imagination of people.

A cartoon of Camil Hassanli slaying a hydra-headed monster representing the other presidential candidates that have ganged up against him has caught the imagination of people.

In Azerbaijan’s tightly managed political and media environment it is not often that a person emerges from the shadows to steal the limelight and catch the imagination of people. Yet this is what a University History professor in his seventies has been able to do over the last weeks since he unexpectedly was chosen as a last minute substitute to represent the opposition “National Council of Democratic Forces” in the Presidential elections that are due in a few days time.

Camil Hasanli had never been in front-line politics before, but had within academic and intellectual circles a reputation as an honest and intellectual person of integrity. Few thought that he had the attributes necessary for the rough and tumble of Azerbaijani politics. Yet over a short period of time, and thanks mainly to a window of opportunity provided by the election campaign which gave him a few minutes of exposure on national television, Hasanli grew in stature by the minute. It was not only his own tough and uncompromising statements in which he lambasted the government for incompetence and corruption that earned him accolades, but also the fact that most of the other candidates in the election preferred to gang up against him. With a cool panache Hasanli saw them off one by one. More…

Elnur Aslanov: “We are creating full conditions for open and transparent elections, we are decisive.”

Elnur Aslanov

Elnur Aslanov

Less than two weeks ahead of Presidential elections in Azerbaijan the Turkish newspaper “Todays’ Zaman” carried an interview with Elnur Aslanov, chief of the Presidential Administration’s Political Analysis and Information Department, in which the senior Azerbaijani official talked about the country’s improving democratic development and rapidly shifting face. Calling his country a nation with an “eastern mentality and western pragmatism,” Aslanov had no doubt that Azerbaijan has made great progress toward democracy, noting that there is still a road ahead. More…

“The National Council is a qualitatively different structure.”

Murad Gassanly

Murad Gassanly

CEW interviewed Murad Gassanly, the official representative of the Chairman of Azerbaijani National Council of Democratic Forces in the United Kingdom, about the plans of the opposition and the situation around the elections in Azerbaijan:

Q1: It seems that the opposition in Azerbaijan has been able for the first time to unite behind a single candidate and political platform ahead of the forthcoming Presidential elections. How important is this step? To what extent has compromise been necessary, and possible?

This is indeed an unprecedented development in Azerbaijani politics – all major political parties, organisations and civil society groups are united within the framework of the National Council, and a common candidate has been chosen to represent the democratic movement in this election. There have been previous attempts to unite the opposition but the National Council is a qualitatively different structure. More…

Analysis: “The current political situation in Azerbaijan should not be interpreted simplistically.”

Dennis Sammut

Dennis Sammut

Ahead of Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan, political analyst Dennis Sammut looks at the background to the current political situation and the likely post-election scenario.

Many consider that the result of the presidential elections due to be held in Azerbaijan on 9 October is a foregone conclusion. Some polls commissioned by pro-government sources are already predicting that 90% of those voting will cast their ballot in favour of the incumbent President Ilham Aliev. The opposition claims, and many international observers agree, that the political space for those opposing the  government in Azerbaijan is narrower now than at any time since the collapse of the USSR, of which Azerbaijan was one of the constituent republics.

So why is the government, the opposition, the international community and others bothering to go through the motions of having an election, and of engaging with it in different ways? The answer is that there is a political debate and process going on in Azerbaijan, in public, but mostly under the surface. The Presidential election is not the most important part of it by far, but with all its shortcomings it is still an essential piece of the jigsaw for both government and opposition. More…

Five hundred thousand young Azerbaijanis will vote for the first time on 9 October.

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The Head of the Secretariat of the Azerbaijani Central Elections Commission, Rovzat Gasimov, has stated that nearly half a million young people will vote for the first time in the forthcoming presidential election in the country. This constitutes around 10% of the total electorate, which is approximately five million voters. Gasimov also said that in all around 40% of the electorate are considered to be youth.

Gasimov was speaking at the launch of a project called “Vote” which is being implemented by the “Ireli” public union with the assistance of the Central Elections Commission. The launch was held earlier this week at the Park Inn Hotel in Baku. Speaking at the event, “Ireli “ Chairman Rauf Merdiyev said that the goal is to raise the turnout of the youth in the upcoming Presidential elections and to raise election awareness amongst young people voting for the first time.

The Election Manifesto of Camil Hassanli, the candidate of the National Council of Democratic Forces

Camil Hasanli

Camil Hasanli

The Election Manifesto of Camil Hassanli, the candidate of the National Council of Democratic Forces  (full text)

This Manifesto sets out the policies, plans and commitments of Azerbaijani National Council of Democratic Forces, and its single, united candidate in the presidential elections of 2013. This Manifesto is drawn up in order to facilitate a free and fair pre-election environment; to create conditions for a truly competitive, democratic contest; to ensure that the rule of law and democratic principles are the basis of political power in Azerbaijan; and to achieve constructive cooperation between different political and public organizations. More…

Margvelashvili launches programme ahead of Presidential election in Georgia.

 Giorgi Margvelashvili, the Candidate of the Georgian Dream Party has launched his political programme ahead of Presidential elections in Georgia on October 27. Speaking at a grandiose event which was also attended by Georgian Dream leader, Prime Minister Bidhzina Ivanishvili, Margvelashvili outlined his vision of the Georgian Presidency in the future, saying that the president will be a guarantor of political freedom and a democratic system. More…

“Electronic democracy is ensured at the highest level possible in Azerbaijan”

Elnur Aslanov

Elnur Aslanov

Senior Presidential Administration official, Elnur Aslanov told AzerTaj news Agency that Azerbaijan does not interfere with the freedom of internet users and that 70% of the population was now on-line.

The government in Azerbaijan has provided all opportunities for citizens to have a free access to information. There is a free internet in the country. There are thousands of free bloggers on an internet space of Azerbaijan. There are tens of online radios, online TVs, hundreds of e-newspapers and e-magazines. Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are extremely popular among the population. Social networks have become an integral part of our lives. It has also become a space of political discussions and exchange of view. Internet has already become a part of daily lives of people in Azerbaijan. The state is the first providing a free internet access for every citizen. More…