Whitewashing of flawed elections through international election observation missions
As a founding partner of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses its concern over international election observation missions delegitimizing the institution of election observation as well as damaging the reputation of those parliaments and international institutions that they represent.
A significant number of international observation missions registered for the recent Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan have violated international standards of election observation. According to an NHC-supported EPDE survey of the work of international election observation missions during the Parliamentary elections on November 1, 2015, in Azerbaijan, none of the 40 officially registered international missions conducted a long-term election observation in the country. Only two missions made their election observation methods a matter of public record. On Election Day, 24 international election observers expressed in the media positive assessments of the electoral process before the closure of voting precincts. Among them was the head of the PACE delegation, Jordi Xucla, and delegation member Augustin Conde.
By conducting themselves in this way, the missions in question violated the central requirements of the United Nations “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation,” which state, in part, that an organization “…should not send an international election observation mission to a country under conditions that make it likely that its presence will be interpreted as giving legitimacy to a clearly undemocratic electoral process.” Neither did the missions fulfill the Declaration’s requirement that “international election observation missions must be of sufficient size to determine independently and impartially the character of election processes in a country and must be of sufficient duration to determine the character of all of the critical elements of the election process in the pre-election, election-day and post-election periods…”
In October 2015, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) decided not to send an observation mission to Azerbaijan after Baku required that ODIHR’s mission reduce its number of observers, which would have prevented ODIHR from conducting an UN-compliant election observation. The European Parliament also refrained from sending an official mission to Azerbaijan. PACE’s disputed decision to send a short-term election observation mission, however, opened an opportunity for Azerbaijan authorities to claim international endorsement of the country’s electoral process. The delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), lead by Jordi Xuclà (Spain, ALDE), issued a statement on November 2, signed by 16 out of 28 delegation members, attesting that Azerbaijan’s electoral process “…demonstrates another step forward taken by the Republic of Azerbaijan towards free, fair and democratic elections and that the results of this vote express the will of the Azerbaijani people.”
With reference to the mentioned violations of international standards of election observation, EPDE challenges this conclusion of the PACE EOM as ungrounded. EPDE draws attention to the votum separatum signed by 3 members of the PACE delegation which contests the official positive PACE assessment and points out the failing preconditions to hold democratic elections in Azerbaijan due to the ongoing abuse of human rights in the country.
Apart from the PACE delegation, several members of parliaments worldwide made generally positive assessments of the election
process in Azerbaijan, which have to be criticized as ungrounded and biased for the same reasons.
The parliament members in question are:
- Franz Obermayr, member of the European Parliament, Europe of Nations and Freedom Group, Austria (observed at 7 polling stations) http://ru.sputnik.az/politics/20151102/402569912.html
- Sergio Divina, member of the Italian Parliament (Senat), Nord League (observed 8 polling stations) http://ru.sputnik.az/azerbaijan/20151102/402570968.html
- Mikhail Korb and Erki Savisaar, members of the Estonian Parliament (Estonian Center Party) http://www.1news.az/politics/20151102020655037.html
- Thierry Mariani, member of the French National Assembly, head of the European People’s Party group (EPP Group) http://www.azernews.az/azerbaijan/89342.html
- Michel Voisin, member of the French National Assembly and chairman of the France-Azerbaijan Friendship Group http://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451258.html
- Daniela Daritkova-Prodanova, head of the Bulgarian delegation, chairman of the Health Parliamentary Commission of Bulgaria http://topnews.az/en/news/166457/Parliamentary-election-in-Azerbaijan-held-at-high-level--Bulgarian-monitoring-mission.html
- Kancho Filipov, Bulgarian MP, http://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451533.html
- Petar Kanev, Bulgarian MP, chairman of the Parliamentary Economic Policy and Tourism Committee http://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451451.html
- Lord David Evans, member of British Parliament’s House of Lords, http://news.az/articles/elections/102388
- Baroness Detta O'Cathain, British Parliament’s House of Lords, http://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451496.html
- Romans Naudins, MP and Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of Latvia (observed at 7 polling stations) http://www.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451324.html
- Luke Simpkins, Parliament of Australia, Liberal Party of Australia http://www.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451034.html
- Avigdor Lieberman, member of Knesset, “Israel Our Home” party, http://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451483.html
- Sofa Landver, member of Knesset, “Israel Our Home“ party (observed at four polling stations) http://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2450967.html
- Nermina Kapetanovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, MP http://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451218.html
- Simeon Kedikoglou, member of the Greek parliament, PASOK http://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/election2015/2451433.html
- Vladimir Marinkovic, National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Serbia, http://en.apa.az/print/234408
EPDE calls on the European Parliament and the National Parliaments of Italy, Bulgaria, Austria, Israel, the UK, France, Latvia, Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Australia to verify the impartiality of the respective deputies.
The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is a network of citizens’ election observation organizations throughout Europe. EPDE has been providing training and networking for independent citizens’ election observers since 2012.
EPDE’s partner organization in Azerbaijan, the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, has been systematically hindered from conducting full-fledged election observation since the time of its critical reporting on the flawed Presidential elections in 2013. Since January 2014, Anar Mammadli, director of EMDS and board member of EPDE, has been imprisoned in Baku.