The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission released a preliminary report on the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan
The OSCE/ODIHR EOM has released an interim report on the snap presidential election in Azerbaijan, scheduled for 7 February.
On 7 December, the day the early elections were announced, Azerbaijan and Armenia publicly reaffirmed their intention to normalise relations and negotiate a peace treaty based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
These elections will be the first to be held throughout Azerbaijan, the document states.
The Mission notes that some technical amendments have recently been made to the Electoral Code. However, the amendments do not take into account previous ODIHR recommendations and previously noted shortcomings remain unresolved.
A number of judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (regarding election irregularities) have also not been implemented.
While the stated objectives of the new media and political party laws were to "ensure a favourable environment for media and parties", many interlocutors to the ODIHR mission noted that these acts "further narrow the space for freedom of 'expression and association'".
The composition of election commissions reflects the political composition of parliament and gives the impression of professional and well-resourced institutions, according to the report. When it comes to the number of voters, the CEC said there were 6,320,500 registered voters, more than a million more than in the last national election in 2020.
The report on presidential candidates said none of the candidates is a woman. There are seven candidates in total, including the incumbent head of state. Six other candidates have openly supported the incumbent in the recent past.
The authors of the reports note the "weakness" of the campaign. None of the main opposition parties, which are not represented in parliament, are running, and one of them is boycotting the elections.
The mission's interlocutors noted that the strict requirements of the new law on political parties, previous changes related to the shortening of the electoral campaign period, and the lack of state support for campaigning have a negative impact on political participation and the competitiveness of the elections.
The authors of the document also state that despite the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of media and information, in the last three months there have been numerous detentions of journalists and heads of a number of online media outlets, some of which took place during the reporting period. This, coupled with the restrictions of the new media law, in particular the prohibition of foreign funding and the blocking of some critical websites inside the country, caused concern among the mission's interlocutors, the document said.
The CEC set up an expert group to consider complaints. However, no complaints were received there.
The appeals court received five complaints from potential contenders, but they were rejected.
A number of the mission's interlocutors said they did not trust the dispute resolution system and the independence of the court. The uneven electoral funds of the incumbent and the remaining candidates are also cited.
A number of civil society organisations, including groups that had previously monitored the elections, stated that administrative obstacles to their registration and restrictions on foreign funding created serious obstacles to the organisation of election monitoring and accreditation by the CEC.
Note that the mission will release its next report on 8 February, the day after the election.