ODIHR refuses to monitor Azerbaijani poll after government tries to restrict the size of the mission.

odihr flagThe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE, the leading election monitoring organisation in Europe, has decided not to observe the forthcoming Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan scheduled for 1 November 2015. ODIHR – an institution that operates in the framework of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has monitored most of the elections held in Europe in the last two decades and has a long history of engagement with Azerbaijan.

In August, ODIHR sent a needs assessment mission to Baku to discuss with the Azerbaijani authorities and other stakeholders the arrangements for the observation mission which was scheduled to be deployed at the end of September. In its report, published on 31 August, the Assessment team recommended that an Observation Mission of around 400 persons, including a core team, 30 long term observers and three hundred and fifty short term observers should be sent. These recommendations were however rejected by the Azerbaijani government who instead proposed that the mission should have six long term observers and one hundred and twenty five short term observers.

On Friday, 11 September, the Director of ODIHR, Michael Georg Link, issued a statement saying that due to restrictions imposed by the Azerbaijani authorities, ODIHR has no choice but to cancel its mission to observe the country’s 1 November parliamentary elections. More…

Split within the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party dismissed as another government ploy by leading opposition newspaper..

An apparent split within the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) has been dismissed as a government ploy to divide and weaken the opposition by the Party’s newspaper, “Azadliq”.

Former Deputy Chairman, of the APFP. Razi Nurullaev, together with a handful of former activists, yesterday (Wednesday, 19 August) addressed a press conference at the International Press Club in Baku, during which they accused Popular Front Chairman Ali Kerimli of dictatorial practices and of having usurped his powers. Nurullaev said that a congress of the Popular Front was due to be held last September but was cancelled, and that therefore Kerimli’s mandate as Chairman had expired. Nurullaev said that there was a lot of discontent within the APFP and promised to rally around those party members who wanted change

Nurullaev resigned as Deputy Chairman of the Popular Front in February of this year and has since been involved in acrimonious exchanges with Party officials. In his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the APFP responsible for international affairs Nurullaev became a familiar face on the international circuit in Baku, as a regular point of contact between the party and embassies and international organisations. Nurullaev however is not thought to have much grass root support, within the APFP or elsewhere. More…

British Ambassador meets Board of REAL Movement.

EK ambassador with realThe British Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Ifran Siddique, on Monday (17 August) met with members of the Board of the REAL Movement in the capital, Baku. Present for the meeting were the Executive Secretary of the REAL Movement Natig Jafarli, and Board members Altai Goyushov and Erkin Gadirli.

Sources at REAL said that the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours, focused on the country’s economic situation and prospects for the future development of the country’s socio-political situation. The sides also discussed preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections and issues related to political prisoners, among who is the Chairman of the REAL Movement, Ilgar Mammedov. At the meeting the issue of reports about pressure being put on Ilgar Mammedov whilst in prison was raised. The matter has caused concern in international quarters and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe last week wrote to the Azerbaijani Minister of Justice on the matter. A number of Azerbaijani journalists who visited the penitentiary facility where Ilgar Mammadov is being held were refused access to the politician.

source: CEW

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…

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…

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