Surprise EP and PACE statement on the presidential election in Azerbaijan
In a surprising statement after last week's elections in Azerbaijan, delegations from the European Parliament and the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly concluded that they had observed "free, fair and transparent electoral process". They did this despite the widespread and reliable reports of fraud, pressure against voters and other manipulations. - We find it quite astonishing that European parliamentary delegation members, who should defend the voters' right to democratic elections, instead choose to look away from the facts of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan, secretary general Bjørn Engesland says. Together with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) we have made a statement criticizing the delegations.
European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is seriously concerned about the findings and conclusions made by the delegations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the European Parliament (EP) after the observation of the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan on 9 October 2013. The joint statement of the mission headed by Robert Walter (UK, PACE) and Pino Arlacchi (Italy, EP) declared that "on election day we have observed a free, fair and transparent election process". The statement further declared that the delegation members did not witness any evidence of intimidation against voters and that "electoral procedures have been carried out in a professional and peaceful way".
This declaration stands in sharp contrast to the findings of domestic election observers and to the observations of the OSCE/ODIHR mission.
EPDE member "Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre" (EMDS, Azerbaijan) has revealed multiple voting in 38% of the observed polling stations, ballot-box stuffing in 32% of polling stations, organized group voting in 39% of polling stations and voters being instructed to vote for a specific candidate in 37% of polling stations. The OSCE/ODIHR observers noted frequent procedural shortcomings on election day: In 12% of observations the voting process was assessed negatively. "Overwhelmingly negative" was the assessment of the vote count procedures by the OSCE/ODIHR observers: 58% of the polling stations visited performed bad or very bad during vote count.
It is difficult to understand how the two delegations of EP and PACE figuring up to a total of 40 persons (7 MEPs and 33 members of PACE ) could not take notice of any of the systematic and massive manipulations that occurred in such a significant part of the polling stations all over Azerbaijan. It is also astonishing that the delegations did not take into account the environment of human rights abuse and intimidation in which the election took place, an environment both Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and the European Union repeatedly has criticized.
The credibility of the election observation missions of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament is affected by the joint statement as it has been published after the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. The reputation of both institutions - watch guards for European democratic values - is endangered both in the perception of the international democratic community and, especially, in the eyes of voters in Azerbaijan who are deprived the right to free and fair elections.
The joint statement made by the PACE and EP delegations forcefully underlines the need for domestic election observation as well as trained, impartial international election observers.
EPDE asks both missions to reveal how the mission members were selected, how the mission members have been trained and instructed and according to which methodology the mission has collected data. EPDE calls both on the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament to ensure that their election observation missions will meet standards of international election observation in the future.
Read the full EPDE statement here.
Read more about EPDE here.