This week, Azerbaijan’s presidential elections unfolded amidst growing concern and condemnation of the electoral procedures.
OSCE Preliminary Report Raises Concerns Over Lack of Pluralism and Irregularities in Azerbaijan’s Extraordinary Presidential Elections
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Election Observation Mission (EMM) released its preliminary opinion on the extraordinary presidential elections held on February 8 in Azerbaijan. The report highlighted concerns regarding the lack of real pluralism during the election preparation, with continuous suppression of critical voices. The document pointed out that long-term restrictions on freedom of association and expression, reinforced by recent legal changes, resulted in legislation that does not meet international democratic standards. The Electoral Code, though detailed, ignored previous ODIHR recommendations.
The OSCE short-term observers noted that the elections were held in restrictive conditions, lacking significant public participation and competitiveness. The head of the OSCE PA delegation, Daniela de Ridder, highlighted the absence of women among the candidates and in Azerbaijan’s political life, emphasizing the need for laws guaranteeing equal participation in politics. Observers raised serious concerns about the integrity of the ballot counting due to issues like the secrecy of voting, lack of guarantees against multiple voting, and signs of irregularities during the voting process.
Eogan Murphy, the head of the DTIHR mission, stated that none of the candidates convincingly challenged the current President, and major procedural errors were observed on election day. Responding to allegations of pressure, the OSCE representatives emphasized their mandate’s independence, stating that external forces do not influence their observations. The international election observation mission comprised 335 observers from 42 countries, indicating a comprehensive effort to assess the electoral process in Azerbaijan.
US Embassy Supports OSCE Concerns
The US Embassy in Azerbaijan has echoed the concerns raised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) regarding the extraordinary presidential elections held on February 7. In a statement released on February 8, the embassy emphasized the ODIHR’s observation that the elections took place in an environment lacking genuine competition. The embassy underscored Azerbaijan’s commitment to upholding fundamental freedoms and democratic processes, as outlined in its Constitution and international obligations. It called on Azerbaijan to fulfill these obligations, urging compliance with both previous and future recommendations from the OSCE ODIHR.
In alignment with the ODIHR’s findings, the US Embassy’s statement implies a shared concern over the limited competitive environment during the presidential elections. It emphasizes the importance of adhering to democratic principles outlined in Azerbaijan’s legal framework and international commitments.
The embassy’s position reflects a diplomatic call for Azerbaijan to actively support democratic processes, fulfill its constitutional and international obligations, and address the recommendations put forth by the OSCE ODIHR for the betterment of the country’s democratic practices.
Election Monitoring Alliance Decries Uncompetitive and Undemocratic Environment in Azerbaijan’s Presidential Elections
The Election Monitoring Alliance (SMA) has declared the early presidential elections in Azerbaijan on February 7 as uncompetitive and undemocratic, citing an absence of a free and fair election environment. The alliance’s initial statement on February 9 highlighted that pressures, restrictive laws, and media suppression on the eve of the elections compromised human rights and freedoms, making it impossible to create an unbiased electoral atmosphere. Discrepancies in voter numbers and non-disclosure of candidates’ financial information were noted, raising doubts about the accuracy and transparency of the process.
The discrepancies in the number of registered voters, exceeding 2 million differences between the Central Election Commission (CEC) and the State Statistics Committee, have cast doubt on the accuracy and transparency of the electoral process. The SMA criticized the absence of female candidates and the low participation of women in election administration. Additionally, the alliance pointed out that candidates showed weak political competition against the current President, and procedural violations on election day raised doubts about the reliability of voting results. The SMA suggested that the opportunity for legislative improvement, institutional reforms, and demonstrating political will for democratic elections was missed in these extraordinary presidential elections held in Azerbaijan.
The Central Election Commission announced preliminary results on February 8, with Ilham Aliyev of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party leading with 92.05 percent of the votes. However, the SMA’s observations raise concerns about the overall legitimacy of the electoral process, calling for transparency and adherence to democratic principles. The election period is marked by a lack of public interest, reinforcing the SMA’s assertion that the elections failed to provide a competitive and democratic environment. The CEC is expected to conclude the presidential elections within 10 days from the voting day, submitting the results to the Constitutional Court for approval by February 17.