Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 189

According to the joint monitoring mission of OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CEPA), Azerbaijan’s presidential election represented a “marked advance in democracy-building,” but was marred by serious violations of the electoral law. In a preliminary assessment of the October 11 election, the mission praised the authorities’ consent to improve the electoral law ahead of the election, in response to international recommendations. “Implementation of the law,” however, “fell short of international standards for a genuine electoral competition.” The monitors observed widespread inaccuracies in the compilation of electoral registers, cases of ballot box-stuffing and faulty procedures in reporting precinct returns. The mission also noted the state-controlled media’s failure to provide balanced and neutral coverage of the campaign.

The assessment did not conclude that these violations were of a magnitude that would invalidate the election’s outcome. The ODIHR and the CEPA will complete and issue the final version of the report next month. According to preliminary returns from Azerbaijan’s Central Electoral Commission, the incumbent President Haidar Aliev received more than 70 percent of the votes cast (International agencies, October 13).

In another preliminary assessment, the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI) described this election as “progress, compared to the 1993 presidential election and the 1995 parliamentary election.” However, the IRI monitors noted that state television and local administrations had propagandized heavily for the incumbent president during the campaign and that the balloting was marked by serious violations of the law, including ballot-box stuffing in Aliev’s favor. The group’s leader was cited as concluding that Aliev could not have won two thirds of the votes cast, which he needed for a first-round victory (International agencies, October 13 and 14).