ODIHR Challenged on Azerbaijan Election Readiness Ahead of Presidential Poll

Sep 24, 2013, 06:03 ET from Azerbaijan Monitor

BRUSSELS, September 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

A Brussels-based institute has questioned the veracity of a report by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) into the preparations for the Azerbaijan Presidential election next month.

In a detailed analysis of the report by ODIHR, the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre (ESISC) has countered specific criticisms, such as the fact that there are no women standing on October 9th and the legitimacy of President Ilham Aliyev seeking a third term. The latter observation has been branded "ironic and hypocritical" given that German Chancellor Angela Merkel secured a third term on September 22nd.

On the issue of no women candidates, ESISC Vice-CEO William Racimora pointed out that "women are widely represented in the parliament, government and judicial authorities" of Azerbaijan, and gender equality is provided by Article 25 of the Constitution. In fact, universal suffrage in Azerbaijan was introduced in 1918, making it the first Muslim country ever to enfranchise women.

ODIHR also accused the Azerbaijani government and its Central Election Commission of failing to implement its reform recommendations after the 2010 parliamentary election. However, ESISC refutes this, citing various reforms it audited and that have been successfully implemented, including better candidate registration procedures, better indelible inking procedures at polling stations and tougher safeguards against multiple voting.

ESISC said that the implemented recommendations by Azerbaijan are "a clear demonstration of the willingness of the country to comply with the most demanding standards of the democratic electoral process."

Racimora further bemoaned the lack of cooperation with ODIHR. "We should note that the ESISC tried repeatedly to meet with representatives of the OSCE/ODIHR in Baku but our repeated requests remained unanswered," he said in his rebuttal.

The report also challenged ODIHR's criticism of the Azerbaijani laws to make website publishers responsible for defamatory content. "Criminal responsibility for defamation is envisaged in the legislation of almost all the Council of Europe Member-States, this measure does not appear to be extraordinary," he noted.

Racimora stressed Azerbaijan's importance as a business partner because of its oil and natural gas but also "because it has demonstrated its ability to overcome peacefully the effects caused by the occupation of part of its national territory by the Republic of Armenia," referring to the occupation of Nagorno Karabakh and surrounding provinces, which has displaced more than one million Azerbaijanis.

SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor