The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Center “Viasna” and Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan deeply regret to note that Azerbaijani elections once again appear to have been grossly manipulated
Baku, November 7, 2005
Observers to the parliamentary election of November 6 report massive and evident falsification and illegitimate pressure on voters throughout the country.
The elections took place in an atmosphere of distrust between ruling powers and the opposition. Despite important improvements to the election legislation, satisfactory implementation of candidate registration and somewhat noticeable improvement with regards to allowing all parties public space for running media campaigns, other aspects indicated that fundamental respect for the right to equal access to the electoral process as a whole was missing. We regret that the introduction of inking of fingers and the access for domestic non-governmental organisations with foreign funding to observe the elections were, however welcome, introduced too late to be adequately efficient.
Regrettably, formal improvements to the legislation fail to remedy a general lack of political will to implement the conduct of free and fair elections under fully equal conditions.
It continues to be a serious problem that Azerbaijani authorities refuse to review the composition of the electoral commissions and that the commissions are being given unauthorized instructions.
Domestic and international observers have reported with regards to election day procedures, that the most frequent breaches of the Electoral Code are interference of local executive authorities and police in polling stations, voters not found on the lists, participation of voters not living in the precinct, intimidation of observers and election commissioners, violation of the principle of secret voting, telling voters who to vote for and campaigning in precincts. Disorder in some polling stations has also been reported.
In 2003, during the Presidential elections, among the more serious violations of respect for electoral process was detention of election officials. The scenario seems to be repeated this year. In constituency 31, where Ali Kerimli was one of the candidates of the Azadliq bloc, opposition members of the commission were beaten by police and unknown persons, after which members of the election commission were dismissed from the premises. Hadjimurad Saddadinov, an Azadliq candidate registered in constituency 22, was detained in a polling station together with his representative and wife Rena Saddadinova. Both have later been released. In many polling stations observers have been dismissed from polling stations, arrested or beaten. In Nachichevan, all observers of the Election Monitoring Center were dismissed at 6 pm, one hour before counting commenced. In constituency 28 a journalist was detained and journalists have also been refused access to the voting premises.
The pre-election period was marred by restrictions on the freedom of speech and assembly, mass arrests and frequent intimidation of participants in the election processes.
Several foreign observers that have previously been known to be critical towards the electoral processes in Azerbaijan, were not allowed to enter Azerbaijani territory on the eve of the elections.
We urge Azerbaijani authorities to investigate all reported violations and promptly remedy those whose rights have been violated, and to punish all perpetrators.
We trust all international organisations observing the elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan, including the OSCE/ODIHR, the OSCE, Council of Europe, European Parliament and the NATO Parliamentary Assemblies and the rest of the international community to acknowledge what has happened and react to the Azerbaijani government accordingly.
Now is also the time for multinational companies represented in Baku, claiming to represent democratic values, to use the influence that they possess.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights House Foundation and Human Rights Center “Viasna” are currently in Azerbaijan in order to follow events during the election period. Representatives of the respective organisations applied for accreditation as election observers under the auspices of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) election observation project. The observers applying for accreditation through this project also included representatives from Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Regrettably, the Central Election Commission declined to offer the group accreditation.