This is an editorial comment by Caucasus Elections Watch
Caucasus Elections Watch is today starting its coverage of the Parliamentary Elections that are due to be held in Azerbaijan on 1 November 2015. Five million Azerbaijani voters will be asked to vote for 125 members of the Milli Meclis – the country’s unicameral parliament. Voting takes place in single seat constituencies.
A free and fair electoral process is guaranteed by the Constitution of Azerbaijan and by Azerbaijani legislation, as well as by Azerbaijan’s commitments as a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Or so it should be! Elections in Azerbaijan over the last decade have however been, at best, problematic. Report after report by credible elections observation missions, particularly those of ODIHR – the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE, have consistently flagged up problems, ranging from shortcomings to outright abuse. The conclusion from the sum of these reports leaves one in no doubt that, despite the fact that there have been improvements in the actual organisation of the process, the elections were lacking in many other accounts, resulting in a distortion of the will of the Azerbaijani people as expressed through the ballot box. More…
The British Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Ifran Siddique, has started a series of visits to political parties in the country ahead of the 1 November Parliamentary elections.
Siddique on Thursday (13 August) met the Executive Secretary, Ali Ahmedov, and the Deputy Executive Secretary, Siyavoush Novruzov of the ruling Party, Yeni Azerbaijan (YAP). The meeting took place at YAP headquarters in central Baku. Issues related to the forthcoming elections and UK-Azerbaijan relations were discussed during the meeting.
A “Needs Assessment Mission” from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE was in Baku in the last days, ahead of elections for the Azerbaijani Mili Meclis (Parliament), scheduled for 1 November. ODIHR usually sends assessment teams to OSCE Member states ahead of elections in order to assess the political climate and the organisational and legal framework, shortly before deploying a full Election Observation Mission. The arrival of the assessment team ends speculation as to weather ODIHR is to monitor the elections at all. Relations between the Azerbaijani government and the OSCE are at the moment quite strained. Baku recently forced the closure of the OSCE Office in Baku, to the consternation of many of the member states. ODIHR only monitors elections after it is invited to do so by the host government.
The autumn session of the Azerbaijani Parliament will start on August 30. The last session of the parliament before it is dissolved ahead of Parliamentary elections will be held on 30 September.
Fifty one Azerbaijani political parties have submitted financial statements to the country’s Central Elections Commission (CEC) as they are required to do by law. This was stated by the Deputy Chairman of the Commission, Natiq Mammadov, quoted by the Azerbaijani News Agency, APA. Mammadov said that four parties have not given their annual financial report. Financial reporting by political parties is a new regulation that recently came into force in Azerbaijan.
On Thursday (13 August) the CEC organised a training seminar for political parties on how to present their annual financial reports. Representatives of the Ministry of Finance, the Audit Chamber and the Ministry of Justice also spoke at the seminar. The website of the CEC said that representatives of 37 political parties also attended the seminar.
The Azerbaijani Central Elections Commission has been working since January to prepare for the forthcoming parliamentary elections in the country. This was stated by the Chairman of the CEC, Mazahir Panahov in remarks he made at a training session for district elections commissions held in Baku on Friday (14 August). The Azerbaijani News Agency APA quoted Panahov as saying that “the CEC pays attention to the public awareness and a special program is being prepared to raise election awareness”, adding that “ the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan pays special attention to the awareness of election commissions and gives recommendations to the CEC in the orders he issues regarding the approval of action plan”.