Elections in Azerbaijan: “Neither free nor fair”

Only 8% of polling stations in Azerbaijan’s presidential election were violations-free, election observation shows.

On April 11th, Ilham Aliyev became president of Azerbaijan for the fourth time.  With 86% of the votes, Aliyev secured himself seven new years in power. Competition was however low, as opposition parities boycotted elections.

«In the increasingly restrictive environment with no opposition candidates running, no independent media to report on the growing number of serious human right violations and repressive political situation in the country, the election cannot be called neither free nor fair», says Olga Shamshur Flydal, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC).

Election violations

Local and international observers documented serious and systematic electoral violations, unchanged from previous elections: incidents of ballot box stuffing, repeat voting (caroussels), and tampering with results protocols. Voter turnout registered by observers was at some stations almost 50% lower than the official numbers.

A NHC colleague and Azeri female journalist explains that there is a lack of hope in the Azerbaijani people.

«Reactions on social media show that people in Azerbaijan see no hope and are desperate, because they understand that it will be very hard to stand another seven-year term.”

Lack of transparency

ODIHR Election Observation Mission reported widespread disregard for mandatory procedures, lack of transparency, and numerous serious irregularities, such as ballot box stuffing. Their preliminary report issued on April 12th also notes a restrictive political environment and a legal framework that curtails fundamental rights and freedoms in the country.

“It assessed voting itself negatively in 12% of more than 1,300 polling stations observed, which is a very high number and is of serious concern”, Flydal explains.

Only 8% violations-free

Local NGO and member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections, Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS), deployed 166 observers at 125 polling stations around the country.

Observers documented voting without registration in 47% of polling stations, ballot-box stuffing in 53% of polling stations and multiple voting in 53% of polling stations. Only 8% of polling stations were violations-free.

EMDS has significant experience in conducting independent and professional observation both in Azerbaijan and abroad but remains unregistered since 2008 and thus without legal status.