Observers divided over Aliyev’s Azeri poll win

Observers divided over Aliyev’s Azeri poll win

BAKU - Hürriyet Daily News
Observers divided over Aliyev’s Azeri poll win

İlham Aliyev tallied a crushing majority of votes that landed him his third term. His main challenger took 5.5 percent of the votes, according to official numbers. AP photo

Two prominent organizations tasked with overseeing the Azerbaijan elections, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), have painted contrasting pictures of the electoral process.

The Azeri Central Election Commission announced yesterday that İlham Aliyev had tallied 84.55 percent of the votes following a turnout of 72.1 percent, nearly the same as the 2008 election. The main opposition challenger, Jamil Hasanli, took 5.5 percent of the vote, placing second.

The OSCE said the election was undermined by limitations on freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which did not guarantee a level playing field for candidates. In a press conference, it said continued allegations of candidate and voter intimidation and a restrictive media environment marred the campaign.

“Significant problems were observed throughout all stages of election day processes and underscored the serious shortcomings that need to be addressed in order for Azerbaijan to fully meet its OSCE commitments for genuine and democratic elections,” a statement from the organization said.

“I was pleased by the good organization of the election and the number of candidates who took part, as well as the peaceful atmosphere on election day,” said Michel Voisin, the coordinator who led the OSCE mission. “Regretfully, however, we have to underline shortcomings in areas like the counting of ballots, and I would hope that the Azerbaijani authorities will make a real effort to bring such areas in line with OSCE commitments.”

Preparing for a third five-year presidential term, Aliyev branded the election as a triumph of democracy. “The fact that this vote was free and transparent is another important step toward democracy,” he said.

Standing in stark contrast to the OSCE, a joint delegation from the PACE and the European Parliament praised the process and said the vote was free, fair and transparent. “On election day we did not witness any evidence of intimidation against voters, in or close to polling stations,” the group said in a statement, while also warning over freedoms. “However, improvements are still desirable with regards to the electoral framework, notably concerning the respect of fundamental freedoms during the months before the election.”

The group also said it was pleased with the electoral debate but that this was not enough. “We also appreciated a more open electoral debate, compared to past elections, although freedom of expression remains a serious concern. We also believe that the opposition has had – although reduced – a window of opportunity for this election which must be developed for the future.”

The main opposition’s Hasanli said yesterday that his side would use all legal means to fight falsifications, adding that his party had applied to the authorities in Baku to hold a rally tomorrow but were still waiting for official permission.