Azerbaijan: statement by the pre-electoral delegation

Strasbourg, 13.09.2013 – The pre-electoral delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has noted the willingness of the authorities of Azerbaijan to put to broad international scrutiny the vote in October’s Presidential election. The Central Electoral Commission is conducting an awareness campaign, organising training for electoral administrators, and is continuously working on electoral lists. The effectiveness and quality of that work will be put to the test on election day.

The forthcoming election will be held in an apparently competitive environment, with the official number of Presidential hopefuls, yet to be finalised, likely to exceed ten. At the same time, the lack of credible challengers to the incumbent President has led to the absence of a substantive nationwide debate. Distinctions between the political platforms of would-be opposition candidates are rather vague, the struggle boiling down to a clash of personalities.

The President’s decision not to conduct a campaign of his own on the grounds that he is well-known by his deeds is disappointing. Furthermore, his frequent presence in the media, while totally legitimate given his functions as the incumbent, puts other competitors at a disadvantage.

Many recommendations made in PACE reports have not been implemented. We particularly refer to those concerning freedom of expression, assembly and association, and the functioning of pluralist democracy. The Venice Commission recommendation related to the composition of electoral commissions at all levels was never properly addressed.

Despite the problems mentioned, and given that the campaign has not yet started, the delegation is hopeful that, following the vote, it will be in a position to assess the election as meeting the standards of the Council of Europe and seen as reflecting the will of the people of Azerbaijan.

The delegation was in Baku from 10 to 13 September 2013 at the invitation of the Chairman of the Milli Majlis. It met with the candidates, including the incumbent President, the Speaker of Parliament, members of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission and the Minister of the Interior, as well as representatives of a cross-section of political parties, NGOs, the media and the diplomatic corps. A full, 32-member PACE observer delegation will be back on 7 October.

Contact: Vladimir Dronov, Head of the Interparliamentary Co-operation and Election Observation Division, mobile: +33 (0)6 63 49 37 92, e-mail: vladimir.dronov@coe.int

Members of the pre-electoral delegation:
Robert Walter (United Kingdom, EDG), head of the delegation
Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin (Sweden, EPP/CD)
Tadeusz Iwinski (Poland, SOC)
Jordi Xuclà (Spain, ALDE)
Dimitrios Papadimoulis (Greece, UEL)
Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD) and Joseph Debono Grech (Malta, SOC), PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Azerbaijan