Time in Yerevan: 11:07:36,   19 January

PACE calls presidential elections in Azerbaijan anti-democratic

YEREVAN, JUNE 27, ARMENPRESS. Early presidential elections on April 11 in Azerbaijan were held in conditions of limited freedoms and in accordance with laws restricting fundamental rights and freedoms, without which there are no truly democratic elections. Fair and free elections are impossible in a repressive political environment where democratic principles are compromised and the rule of law is not respected. Against this background and in the absence of pluralism, even in the media, in these elections there was no genuine competition, ARMENPRESS reports, citing contact.az, the conclusion of the PACE report says on the presidential elections in Azerbaijan prepared by the Romanian MP, Viorel Badaa, and adopted at the PACE session in Strasbourg on Tuesday 26 June. The report also noted that democratic principles are compromised in Azerbaijan and the rule of law is not observed. Even the presidential candidates refrained from contesting or criticizing the current head of state.

Earlier, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe criticized the changes in the Constitution of Azerbaijan, which allowed the president to appoint a vice-president, dissolve the parliament and announce early elections.

Early presidential elections took place under the political dominance of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party headed by Ilham Aliyev, who became the head of state for the fourth time. The election day was characterized by widespread disregard for mandatory procedures and numerous cases of serious violations and lack of transparency.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced that voter turnout was 74.5%. International observers have recorded numerous cases of violations of mandatory procedures.

Voting was assessed negatively by 12% (more than 1,300 polling stations), which is a very large number and causes serious concern.

Workers of polling stations not only failed to perform key procedures, but also hampered the work of observers. Nevertheless, observers recorded facts of mass ballot box stuffing (4% of polling stations), forgery of signatures in the voter lists (8%), group voting in several polling stations (3%).

Violations of the rules for using ink on the fingers of the voters (17%) and the issuance of ballots without the voter's signature (11%).

72% of the polling stations were attended by unknown persons who interfered in the work of the Electoral Commission and gave them instructions. At the same time, official observers were not allowed to check voter lists.

International observers negatively assessed more than half of the 133 vote counts, due to gross violations and deliberate falsifications. Half of the polling stations did not compare the signatures in the voter lists with the number of ballots in the ballot box.

A large number of other serious violations were recorded, which are listed in the 16-page report.

The report also assesses the pre-election situation, which is characterized by a lack of pluralism of the right to freedom of expression and assembly, pressure on a civil servant to support a candidate from power.

The media environment in the country is characterized by an extreme restriction of freedom of expression. On TV and radio there is no pluralism, as on most electronic resources and websites. Civil society and NGOs of the country were removed from the process of monitoring and evaluation of elections, the report noted.

Attempts by members of the Azerbaijani delegation to challenge the conclusions and assessments of this report at the PACE session in Strasbourg failed.

Edited and translated by Tigran Sirekanyan

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