Who reacted to the election and how?
The recently concluded presidential elections in Azerbaijan, held on February 7, have drawn scrutiny from international observers, with preliminary reports indicating significant shortcomings in the electoral process. The Joint Observation Mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has highlighted concerns over the lack of genuine competition and restricted conditions leading up to the elections.
In their preliminary conclusion, the OSCE/ODIHR Observation Mission underscored the absence of real pluralism in the pre-election period, with critical voices facing continuous suppression. The Mission also raised alarms over long-standing restrictions on freedom of association and expression, exacerbated by recent legislative amendments that fail to meet international democratic standards.
Echoing these concerns, the United States Embassy in Azerbaijan voiced solidarity with the observations and apprehensions outlined by the OSCE/ODIHR monitoring mission. Emphasizing Azerbaijan's constitutional and international commitments to fundamental freedoms and democratic processes, the Embassy called upon Azerbaijani authorities to honor these pledges and adhere to the recommendations put forth by the OSCE/ODIHR.
Similarly, the Azerbaijan Center for Election Monitoring and Democracy Education (SMDT) released its preliminary conclusions, highlighting traditional deficiencies in the electoral process, including irregularities in voting and vote counting. Instances of voting irregularities, such as voting by individuals not listed on voter rolls, group voting at multiple polling stations, and interference by local executive structures, were noted. Moreover, cases of multiple voting and instances of pressure on observers and journalists were reported, further raising concerns about the integrity of the electoral process.
In a scathing assessment, the Election Monitoring Alliance (SMA) deemed the early presidential elections as uncompetitive and undemocratic, emphasizing significant flaws in the electoral framework.
Human rights activist Samir Kazimli, speaking on the program "A Difficult Question," shed light on the challenges surrounding the electoral process. Kazimli highlighted the restricted civic engagement and weakened media and civil society activities leading up to the elections. He lamented the absence of international monitoring by representatives from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), attributing it to the prevailing restrictions.
While acknowledging the initial shortcomings highlighted by the OSCE, Kazimli urged caution in drawing definitive conclusions, emphasizing the need to await the Mission's final report. He underscored the importance of a comprehensive assessment to address the multitude of violations and falsifications that may have occurred during the electoral process.