Yesterday, on April 27, the composition of the Central Election Commission was re-formed. Mazahir Panahov, who has been the chairman since 2000, was re-elected chairman.
Against this background, the issue of interference in the election process by local executive authorities also came up. Some experts and MPs believe that the executive authorities are interfering in the formation of Constituency Election Commissions. According to other experts, the interference of the central government in the election process has become commonplace. Is there interference in the elections in Azerbaijan?
In 2005, President Ilham Aliyev signed an order on improving election practice in the Republic of Azerbaijan. According to the order, the heads of central and local executive authorities and other government officials will be held accountable in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan if they interfere with the election process in violation of the law.
According to another paragraph of the order, the central and local executive authorities should be instructed to create the necessary conditions for the exit poll conducted by specialized public opinion polls in accordance with the Election Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan and not to interfere in the process illegally.
In accordance with the Criminal Code, Civil Code, and Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Azerbaijan, persons who illegally interfere in the election process or otherwise violate the rights of voters and candidates to elect and be elected may be held criminally, civilly, or administratively liable.
The Central Election Commission told Turan that the elections in Azerbaijan are free and fair. “In order to prepare for the elections at a high level, the CEC and relevant government agencies pay special attention to the implementation of the duties and powers provided for in the Election Code.”
The body noted that the CEC is taking steps that are important stages of the election process, such as the clarification of voter lists, the improvement of the regulatory framework, the education of all election subjects, including voters, the nomination and registration of candidates, the creation of opportunities for pre-election campaigning based on equal conditions, the creation of completely free and unimpeded conditions for the free activity of observers and media representatives, and all other steps. The CEC stressed that the appeals received in connection with the elections are thoroughly and objectively investigated in order to ensure the rights of citizens to elect and be elected, then operatively discussed at the meeting with the participation of applicants and other interested parties, and relevant decisions are made. “For example, as a result of a full, transparent, and comprehensive investigation of appeals received after the last parliamentary elections, the Commission decided to invalidate the elections in Khatai First Constituency No. 33, Khatai Third Constituency No. 35, Lankaran Rural Constituency No. 74, and Imishli-Beylagan Constituency No. 80. As a result of the investigation of various sources – social networks, appeals from voters, and information received by hotline, election results in a total of 328 precincts were annulled. The Commission also decided to dismiss the precinct election commissions in 87 precincts for shortcomings in their activities during the preparation, conduct, and determination of the election results. The body stressed that in general, voters come to the precincts freely and without obstacles to express their will.”
However, in the 2009 and 2014 municipal elections, the Central Election Commission confirmed that some district executive authorities interfered in the election process.
MP, chairman of the Civic Solidarity Party, Sabir Rustamkhanli, told Turan that local executive authorities are interfering in the formation of election commissions. “For example, there are seven members of the Constituency Election Commissions, one of them is a member of the Civic Solidarity Party, and the other is a member of another opposition party. The executive power suggests that “let us nominate the person, let the name be yours”. Why? In the election of secretaries of the Constituency Election Commission, they say that “this party is okay, this party is not”. The parties determine here themselves that in which district the representative of which party should be the secretary of the Constituency Election Commission. But when you go to the district, the district interferes. This is a violation of the law.”
The MP noted that along with the fact that the body conducting the elections in each district, i.e. the Constituency Election Commission, is directly subordinated to the Central Election Commission, it also has an indirect relationship with the executive power. “The executive power is trying as much as possible to rule the roast, to have an impact, to influence in accordance with its wishes.”
S. Rustamkhanli stressed that each government wants to protect its interests in the election process. “It wants normal people to be elected to parliament, and both the ruling party and other parties to be represented there. An election is a serious event in the fate of the country. However, accusations of direct interference in the elections can be made only if there are facts.”
Anar Mammadli, head of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center, told RFE / RL that there was interference in the elections in Azerbaijan. “It doesn’t matter if it is done by local or central executive authorities. But that’s just the way it goes.”
The expert noted that local and international expert groups, as well as some political parties, are dissatisfied with the composition of election commissions. “The determination of the composition is biased and impartiality is not maintained. In the formation of election commissions, political parties should be represented on a parity basis but this principle is violated.” The election expert says that the Election Code in force in Azerbaijan is defective for the representation of political forces on a parity basis. “It is written that one-third of the commissions are representatives of the party that has a majority in parliament, one-third are representatives of opposition parties represented in parliament, and one-third are neutral. But who is meant by neutral?”
The expert says that if we are talking about the principle of formation of election commissions with the participation of political forces, then the presence of neutrals in their composition loses its essence. “Because neutrals are not a political force. It would be good if the commissions were formed from representatives of political forces on a parity basis.”
A. Mammadli stressed that the people elected to the Central Election Commission from the New Azerbaijan Party, then the candidates nominated by the YAP from the CEC become chairmen, deputy chairmen, and secretaries in the constituencies, and after the constituencies, for some reason, in the precincts and election commissions. “One party wins the election, and as if the chairman and deputy chairman of the commission must be one of them due to its victory. That’s not fair and logical.”
The expert noted that in the process of the formation of election commissions, people close to the government are included in the precincts and constituencies in the regions on behalf of neutrals and minority parties in parliament. “In fact, this process is under the control of the local executive power. But I do not think that local executive bodies do it alone and arbitrarily. Who can do this without an order from the center? There are 125 constituencies and about 5,600 precincts in the country, and they have commissions. Their formation is not the work of the chief executive alone. There is an instruction from the center, and the commissions include people who will make the elections “easy”
Source: Turan News Agency