Azerbaijan snubs US pre-election mission; Georgia rolls out the red carpet.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia.

The Azerbaijani government refused to accept a US Government delegation ahead of the country’s forthcoming Presidential elections. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Baku said the visit of the delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia, was “postponed at the request of the Azerbaijani government”. No reason was given. More…

Commentary: Election Monitoring: time to shift the emphasis onto local monitors.

Observers of Transparency International georgia planning election monitoring ahead of the 2012 Parliamentary elections. (picture courtesy of TI Georgia).

Observers of Transparency International Georgia planning election monitoring ahead of the 2012 Parliamentary elections. (picture courtesy of TI Georgia).

There are some who think that the time for large scale international election monitoring is outdated and needs to adapt to the changing circumstances. Smaller teams with more political clout, working closely with local activists may be better placed to focus on what really matters – the substance of whether or not an election has reflected the views of the electorate, and if the conditions existed for those views to be formed in a reasonably free atmosphere. The Georgian Parliamentary Elections in October 2012 proved the effectiveness of domestic election monitoring, which ideally should form the basis for election monitoring. Reports of Election Monitoring Missions often focus on technical aspects of election organisation. Frankly, at least within the OSCE area, after twenty years of experience this should not be an issue at all anymore, and if it is it is best to be dealt with outside the context of election observation. More…

Stand-off in Vienna as Azerbaijan tries to change the mandate of the OSCE Office in Baku.

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in the...

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The diplomatic row between Azerbaijan and the OSCE regarding the mandate of the OSCE Office in Baku went public last week in Vienna.On 14 May 2013, whilst in Vienna accompanying President Ilham Aliev who was on a state visit to Austria, the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, took time to address formally the representatives of the 57 participating States of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) at a meeting of the Organisation’s Permanent Council.

Couched in diplomatic language the Minister’s speech, and the response to it from many of the diplomats present, highlighted a serious stand-off on the issue of the role of the Office of the OSCE in Baku. The office was established in 1999 and was seen as an important mechanism to accompany Azerbaijan’s programme of reforms aimed at bringing it in line with OSCE commitments.

Over the recent months Azerbaijan has been asking for the mandate of the office to change, in practise reducing its role to that of a technical office. Since the budget of the office is part of the OSCE budget, and since the budget needs to be approved by consensus by all the member states Azerbaijan has been hinting that it may veto the whole budget unless its request is satisfied.

This is only one of many issues that have emerged over the last year in Azerbaijan’s relations with the EU and other countries as a result of a crack-down against all form of dissent in the country.

read the current mandate of the OSCE office in Baku here.OSCE Baku office mandate More…

The case of Ilgar Mammedov puts the Council of Europe on the spot.

ilgar mammedov 2The case of Azerbaijani political activist Ilgar Mammedov is fast becoming a test-case of the resilience and integrity of those European institutions that are meant to be the guardians of human rights on the continent. Mammedov was arrested earlier this year after visiting the town of Ismaili at a time when rioting was taking place.  Mammedov is accused of inciting the riot.

Unrests in Ismailli district began on the evening of January 23, after an accident involving the nephew of the head of the local administration Nizami Alekperov, and the son of the Minister of Labor Fizuli Alekperov – Vugar Alekperov, triggering a riot. The participants set fire to a number of commercial entities belonging to officials. Special Forces and internal troops entered the district using rubber bullets and tear gas  There were dozens of arrests and many injured as a result of clashes. Mammedov, who is also Director of the Council of Europe Schgool for Political Studies in Baku and co-Chair of the social movement “Real”, went to Ismaili to investigate the incident and was subsequently arrested and accused of inciting the riot.

His case was raised this week by the Council of Europe, an institution that has traditionally been the beacon of human rights on the continent. Azerbaijan is a member of the Council and will take over its rotating chairmanship in 2014. There is great unease in European circles about the message this will send, and frustration at a deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan at this juncture. More…

Back in an embrace? The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly says it is back working with ODIHR on election monitoring.

Francois-Xavier de Donnea presenting a report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Reform of the OSCE at the Bureau of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Copenhagen on 15 April 2013. Picture courtesy of the OSCE PA

Francois-Xavier de Donnea presenting a report of the
Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Reform of
the OSCE at the Bureau of the OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly in Copenhagen on 15 April 2013.
Picture courtesy of the OSCE PA

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Bureau on Monday (15 April) decided to reactivate the 16-year-old agreement that guides election observation by the OSCE.

A statement on the OSCE PA website said that “four months after declaring the 1997 Co-operation Agreement no longer operable, the Assembly today reactivated the agreement and said it needed to be applied to ensure that the OSCE speaks with one voice in assessing elections among its 57 participating States.

The OSCE PA’s leadership accepted the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Reform of the OSCE, led by Francois- Xavier de Donnea (Belgium), that the 1997 agreement be applied to the upcoming election observations in Bulgaria and Albania. The committee has worked since February toward improving co-operation in election observation. The Assembly will evaluate the experiences of those election observation missions at the Annual Session in July in Istanbul.” More…

Hovannesian ends hunger strike; says political struggle will continue.

rafiiArmenian politician Raffi Hovannesian has ended his hunger strike which he had started on 9 March to bring to attention his rejection of the results of the 18 February Presidential election in which he was declared the runner-up

On Easter Sunday morning the leader of the Heritage party, went out of his tent, which he had set up in Liberty Square in the center of Yerevan, and said he was grateful to all those who supported him in his protest. “I want to thank my family members who supported me during these days. I’m also grateful to all policemen who, with the exception of some minor incidents, performed their duty well,” Hovannesian said, adding he would continue his political struggle the next day.

Observers consider that the end of the hunger strike might indicate that Hovannesian will now enter into negotiations with the incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan over some kind of power sharing. Hovannesian has repeatedly stated that any negotiations will have to be conducted transparently and that he himself was not seeking any post in any power-sharing arrangement.

Over the last weeks Hovannesian has also called for either new Presidential or new Parliamentary elections. Whilst this demand is unlikely to be satisified Armenia is likely to embark on the search for a new constitution which may bring an end the current impasse in Armenian politics.

source: CEW staff with RIA Novosti and other agency reports.