ESI reports on Azerbaijani presidential elections
13:27, 8 November, 2013
YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 8, ARMENPRESS: The European Stability Initiative Research Institute prepared a report on the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. Armenpress informs that the report says in particular: “According to the Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan, there were nearly 1,300 international observers from 50 different organizations in Azerbaijan for the October 2013 presidential elections. Forty-nine monitoring groups praised the elections as free and fair, meeting European standards. One group of international election monitors refused to go along with the praise: the election monitoring mission of ODIHR, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Azerbaijanis were told by the leaders of the delegations of two European parliamentary institutions – the European Parliament (EP) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) – that they had just held "free, fair and transparent" elections. Pino Arlacchi, the head of the European Parliament's monitoring team questioned ODIHR's legitimacy ("not elected by anybody"), objectivity ("easy to manipulate") and competence ("so-called experts").
However, carrying out serious election monitoring is a resource-intensive endeavor. Only ODIHR employed a core team of experts and long-term observers, who arrived in the country many weeks before the day of elections. In addition ODIHR mobilized a large number of short-term observers for the elections themselves. ODIHR monitors observed voting in 1,151 of the 5,273 polling stations across the country. The evidence of systemic fraud was overwhelming. While voting was problematic, the counting of ballots was catastrophic, with 58 per cent of observed polling stations assessed as bad or very bad. It may have been the worst vote count ever observed by an ODIHR election observation mission anywhere.
The events in October 2013 in Baku reveal a broken system for international election observation. International monitors should provide objective assessments, based on documented observations, of whether national elections meet European and international democratic standards. This should help to prevent or resolve national disputes about election results, while guiding the international community in their future dealings with the government. Doing this requires a clear and transparent methodology.
As a rule, short-term observers arrive in a country two days before the elections. They are briefed on the election campaign. They typically spend one day meeting with representatives of the government, the opposition, mass media and NGOs. Given the limited size of their delegations, they can only visit a few polling stations on the day of elections. Few watch the crucial vote counting. Then they leave the day after the elections.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly argues that parliamentarians can assess whether an election meets international standards without engaging in long-term monitoring and without following any methodology, just because they have been elected themselves. This argument is absurd, but it keeps being presented as a serious claim. It is an argument that can no longer be left unchallenged by other parliamentarians concerned about the reputation of their institutions, or by international media reporting on such assessments.
This report argues that the future of election monitoring on the European continent depends on how decision makers – in the European Parliament, in the Council of Europe, in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and in European governments – react now. It is vital to revisit the facts and analyses behind the different assessments, and to retrace how different groups of observers could arrive at radically diverging conclusions. The relationship between long- and short-term election observers needs to be rethought.
Aliyev's victory and its scandalous endorsement by most international monitors offer an opportunity to fix a broken system. Doing so would benefit not just Azerbaijanis, but all those who believe that democratic elections are celebrations of basic human rights, in Europe and around the world”.