On 21 June Pro-Democracy Public Chamber of Azerbaijani opposition held public discussion to discuss the amendments to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The event brought together well-known experts, NGOs, political party officials, and several representatives of international missions.
Debate generated a lot of suggestions about the improvement of electoral legislation to ensure the democratic presidential elections in Azerbaijan in October 2013.
Panelists and the participants noted that the current electoral code does not provide grounds for holding fair, free and democratic elections.
According to Hafiz Hasanov, the expert in the field of elections, the basis of all the problems in the country is undemocratic elections. Until there are fair elections and legitimate power structure, problems of democracy will not be resolved. Moreover, there is no political and pre-election environment, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the free press that provide conditions for just elections.
Member of Coordination Council of the Public Chamber, chairman of Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan Ali Karimli supported the establishment of the Working Group to develop specific proposals on the potential amendments to the electoral code. Ali Karimli said “it is paradoxical that during a decade no time was found to hold electoral reforms. Frankly speaking, I’m eager to criticize the positions of international organizations on this issue. As usual international organizations observing elections in Azerbaijan, in particular OSCE prepares a set of clear and objective recommendations. The recommendations expose the drawbacks and suggest what to do. But there are no binding mechanisms to put the recommendations into reality and they do not take any steps to follow on implementation of their recommendations and then start from the new elections again”.
Member of Coordination Council of the Public Chamber, chairman of “Musavat” Party Isa Gambar also supported the establishment of the Working Group to develop specific proposals. “We have been in paradoxical situation for 19 years and it seems to be clear that without change of power in Azerbaijan no free and just elections are possible in Azerbaijan. We accept only one way of change of power through elections. This is why all our efforts have been directed to elections. The political democratic forces and civil society in Azerbaijan is quite strong. We must be able to realize this potential. We have already prepared documents at hand and we should also think of improving those documents rather to start from the ground level” – Isa Gambar said.
It was also noted that since 2005, the government increasingly tightened electoral laws. The composition of elections commissions is not equal and all the members are in fact under the control of the ruling party. Since the equality not ensured in the commissions, winning the elections seems impossible, many stated at the debate.
Speakers reiterated three problems that are of major problem and should be of focus now:
1) Equal composition of election commissions;
2) Lifting the barriers in registration of election candidates as far as the expert groups investigating the irregularities in the elections, under the Central Election Commission are biased. The expert group members are also composed of the members of the commissions and the other employees of the commission office, who are under full control of ruling party. The expert group disqualifies the signatures of undesired candidates. The suggestion was to form the expert group from outside the commission to ensure neutrality;
The public debate participants decided to establish a Working Group with representatives of political parties, civil society and independent experts in order to develop specific proposals on the priority and potential amendments to be made to Electoral Code of Azerbaijan.
Participants at the debate noted the importance of cooperation with the ODIHR of OSCE and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. Participants of the debate decided to send the potential amendments to the above-said organizations and in between conduct consultations with them.
Razi Nurullayev is a deputy-chairperson for Foreign Affairs of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan and chairman at “REGION” International Analytical Center (RIAC)