31 mai 2013

ACTU : The next Azerbaijani presidential elections in October 2013 will be closely observed

Hans-Jürgen ZAHORKA
The National Council of European Azerbaijanis, a new opposition alliance for democracy, the rule of law and a corruption-free Azerbaijan, has written in an appeal to Catherine Ashton, the responsible for EU Foreign Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission, with a copy to many European Parliament members, to observe closely the Azerbaijani presidential elections in October 2013. These elections will find the strange situation that the incumbent President of this country, Ilham Aliyev, will run again after the Constitution has excluded this originally, but this possibility was created by a “referendum”. Here is the full text:
“With this petition we would like to draw your attention to Azerbaijan, and specifically to the presidential elections that take place in this year in October, considering the situation of human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan.
1) the long-term development and stability in the country, which is a key priority for democracy, stipulating that “a person cannot be elected President more than twice”;
2) to ensure that all conditions are met in October 2013 for a peaceful, free and fair presidential election;
3) that all citizens who wish to participate in the political process, including those living in exile abroad, can participate in the election and can elect also candidates of the opposition parties, in genuine participation and with equal opportunities for all candidates;
4) to guarantee the right of assembly, and other fundamental freedoms, and to ensure that the international organizations of human rights are accredited, and that political prisoners be released immediately.

Although Azerbaijan is located in the neighbourhood of the European Union, and cooperates in the “Eastern Partnership Programme” of the European Union, in the OSCE, and is a member of the Council of Europe, it does not meet the standards of these organizations and experiences serious problems with regard to democracy and human rights.
Shortly after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has been ruled by the Aliyev family. Haydar Aliyev was a powerful high-ranking official of the former Soviet Union and a KGB General. He acquired power in 1993 in a non-legitimate way and later handed over the government to his son, Ilham Aliev.
International observers have confirmed that in Azerbaijan over the last 20 years the elections that took place did not meet international standards – as much in the country’s presidential elections, as in the parliamentary and municipal elections.
The legislation in the country does not allow conducting objective and impartial elections. The election commissions are under the control of the ruling regime, from top to bottom. In this country the opposition has no possibilities for participating in the election campaign. Officials of the opposition parties are being observed, wiretapped, and persecuted, there are strict limits in political campaigns, and independent media are persecuted, all TV channels are under the control of the existing regime, and the country’s prisons are full of political prisoners. In Azerbaijan there is clear evidence that there are death squadrons run by the state, and that parliamentary seats are being attributed after receipt of the purchase price.
Haydar Aliyev’s son Ilham wants to be elected in the presidential position more than the two times that he has obtained (2003 and 2008), as is constitutionally allowed. After the presidential election 2008, a referendum was held for changing the constitution to allow unlimited presidency. After this referendum, the clause in the constitution was removed that limits a person’s eligibility for more than two times as a president. Now Ilham Aliyev has a chance to be elected president until the end of his life. There are serious doubts about the legality of all these changes in the procedure.
We would like the European Union to call on the Azerbaijani government to demand the following:
The election process in Azerbaijan offers for the EU a variety of tools for calling dubious structures into question, ensuring democratic procedures with effective measures, and  sanctions that can be imposed.
In our opinion, it is absolutely necessary to observe closely the electoral process in Azerbaijan, and to organize a sufficiently numerous group of international observers for ensuring a thorough monitoring process.”

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