Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

In Azerbaijan the Ruling Party wins the Parliamentary Elections Boycotted by Opposition and International Observers

3 November 2015

In the parliamentary elections of 1 November, the ruling New Azerbaijan party won at least 70 seats in the 125-seat parliament, with the rest taken by small parties and candidates loyal to President Ilham Aliyev as the opposition refused to participate in the elections after the pre-election period marked by massive violations.

These elections served as another reminder of the oppressive political environment in Azerbaijan as almost all critical voices among journalists, civil society and human rights activists were imprisoned in the last few years. The Aserbaijani government, however, denies the existence of any political prisoners and explains any international criticism as a “Western agenda to discredit Azerbaijan.”

Due to the deteriorating human right situation in the country, the European Parliament, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE/ODIHR refused to deploy their election observation missions. OSCE/ODIHR’s decision came in response to Baku’s limitation of the number of observers.

PACE election observation mission (EOM) comprised of 28 observers was the international monitor of these elections. PACE issued the official statement noting “the consensus that the election day was calm and peaceful across the country and the voting process - adequate and generally in line with international standards.” However, this consensus was not shared by all the members of the PACE EOM as its official statement was far from being adopted unanimously, with a vote of 16 to 7.

In strong disagreement, three members of the observation mission – Ute Finckh-Kraemer (Germany), Michael McNamara (Ireland) and Frank Schwabe (Germany) – took the decision to issue their own statement detailing why these elections cannot be considered as "a step towards free, fair, and democratic elections.”

Human Rights House Network praised the PACE members who issued the dissenting statement for "remaining independent and principled in their support of democratic principles and fair elections, and for their opposition to the imprisonment and repression of civil society". HRHN expects that this evidence will be taken into consideration at the PACE review in January 2016 of the credentials of the new parliamentary delegation from Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, the EU regretted in its statement on the elections in Azerbaijan that “a level playing field was not guaranteed for all the candidates”, and yet the EU expects to continue the “cooperation with Azerbaijani institutions, including the newly elected Parliament, to the benefit of all citizens.”

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