Azerbaijan’s coming Presidential election must demonstrate the country’s democratic commitment, says PACE President in Baku

Strasbourg, 03.07.2008 – October’s Presidential election in Azerbaijan must demonstrate the country’s commitment to democratic reforms, according to Lluís Maria de Puig, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), speaking at the end of an official visit to the country (1-3 July 2008).


The PACE President noted with satisfaction statements by Azerbaijan’s highest authorities – the President of the Republic, the Speaker of Parliament and the Prime Minister – that the country’s choice of a European and democratic future is irreversible and that Azerbaijan is resolute in pursuing democratic reforms that are in line with Council of Europe standards. He also took note of these authorities’ commitment to put in place conditions which would enable the coming Presidential election to be free and democratic.


Mr de Puig also called on the authorities to implement the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Assembly in its Resolution 1614 (2008), adopted on 24 June 2008 in Strasbourg.


Among these recommendations, the PACE President highlighted those dealing with the preparation of the Presidential election, in particular as regards the composition and functioning of election committees, respect for freedom of association, equal access to the media and the registering of candidates.


For the credibility of the electoral process, it is extremely important that the steps called for by the Assembly are taken as soon as possible before the election is held, the President pointed out.


Full respect for freedom of expression requires particular attention, the President stressed. In every Council of Europe member state, journalists must be able to work freely and without fear of persecution. Detaining journalists is therefore completely unacceptable, and those who are in prison should be freed, he added.


In this context, Mr de Puig called on the authorities to use all legal means to settle the question of alleged political prisoners and, in particular, to immediately liberate on humanitarian grounds those who are in ill health.


During his visit, the President also insisted on the need to urgently find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, on the basis of respect for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and using only peaceful means. Perpetuating the conflict would only continue to have a negative effect on the democratic evolution of the country, as well as on the democratic and economic development of the entire region.


In order to make progress on the problems affecting the country, it is essential that a meaningful dialogue is established between the majority in power and the opposition, the President said. The opposition’s rights must be respected to enable it to play a full part in the political life of the country, he concluded.


During his visit, Mr de Puig met among others President Ilham Aliyev, the Speaker of the Milli Mejlis (parliament) Ogtay Asadov, Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov. The President also held meetings with the members of the Azerbaijan delegation to the Assembly and representatives of different political parties, as well as members of civil society, the media and the diplomatic corps in Baku.