The international community shall not give legitimacy to a clearly undemocratic electoral process

Press release

(Paris, Oslo) Unsurprisingly, last week’s legislative elections in Azerbaijan were won by the President’s Aliyev’s ruling party. In the persistent anti-democratic and repressive context, legislative polls displayed the regime’s acute quest for international recognition. The authorities invited so-called stand-alone "observers" in an attempt to compensate the refusal of a number of international organisations to send their monitors. FIDH and Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) urge the international community to unanimously condemn the lack of civil and political freedoms in Azerbaijan, and voice a strong support to its targeted civil society.

"Elections cannot be in line with international standards when opposition activists, a top election monitor and a dozen of most vocal government’s critics are in jail"

FIDH Honorary President Souhayr Belhassen

Main opposition parties refused to participate in the elections, withdrew several days ahead of the elections or boycotted their results. The Deputy Chairman of Musavat, Tofiq Yagublu, is serving a 5 year prison sentence. The leader of the opposition movement REAL Ilgar Mammadov is currently serving a 7 year prison sentence. Anar Mammadli, founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) is also jailed, together with a number of other human rights activists, lawyers and journalists such as Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunusov, Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov and Khadija Ismailova, recently condemned to lengthy prison terms on fabricated charges. Civil society activists are constantly harassed and intimidated.

Azerbaijan’s Electoral Code contains a number of provisions that severely restrict the transparency and openness of the pre-electoral process and discriminates non-ruling parties during the election campaign. For example, Chairpersons of all electoral commissions are nominees of the parliamentary majority, which is currently composed of pro-government political parties, thereby undermining the impartiality of the whole election administration. Moreover, changes to the election code have restricted free air time on national-level media only to parties fielding candidates in 60 single-mandate constituencies, a requirement only the ruling party meets. Ahead of the November elections, independent local election monitors reported cases of intimidation of local population trying to prevent signature collection for opposition candidates, and restrictions were also imposed on opposition parties collecting signatures.

The short-term monitoring mission of 28 observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) concluded in a statement Monday that the elections were “a step forward towards free and fair elections”, despite observed violations like ballot stuffing and shortcomings during vote count.

“We are deeply disappointed by PACEs ill-founded recognition of the Azerbaijani election process, and urge the inter-governmental organisations to speak with one voice in decrying the mounting repression of civil society in the country and voice a strong support to its targeted civil society”,

Bjørn Engesland, NHC Secretary General

However, only 16 out of 28 members of the PACE delegation signed the said statement. Seven members refused to sign, and three of them issued a dissenting opinion denouncing the lack of conditions for free and democratic elections, while five members did not take part in the vote.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) refused to send monitors to these elections, followed by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The European Parliament decided not to send election observers to Azerbaijan either, highlighting that the background for holding free and fair elections does not exist. Nevertheless, several stand alone parliamentarians from EU member countries responded positively to the invitation from the Azerbaijani Government to come as so-called «election oberservers», and have given positive assessments of the process.

The EU has failed to condemn the election for being fundamentally flawed, and declared instead to look “forward to continuing cooperation with Azerbaijani institutions, including the newly elected Parliament, to the benefit of all citizens.

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