Azerbaijan recently held repeat elections for ten out of one-hundred-twenty-five parliamentary seats. The November 2005 parliamentary elections had been marred by serious irregularities.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O-S-C-E, called the latest vote "an improvement in some aspects of the process." At the same time, observers stressed the need for further reforms, citing several "issues of concern, including the composition of election commissions, instances of interference by local authorities in the election process, and the handling of complaints and appeals by election commissions and courts."
O-S-C-E observers noted "a number of irregularities in the conduct of the voting, counting and tabulation processes," while calling the Central Election Commission's posting of result protocols on its website "a welcome step."
The United States provided a great deal of assistance to Azerbaijan in an effort to remedy the shortcomings of the November parliamentary elections. The U.S. helped train domestic election observers, established an exit poll, and provided invisible finger-ink. Moreover, U.S. embassy teams were sent out as election observers. In addition to electoral reform, Azerbaijan's government needs to work on combating corruption and strengthening civil society.
The latest U.S. State Department human rights report faults the government for corruption, political repression, and prisoner mistreatment. During a visit to the U.S., Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev acknowledged his country's difficulties and pledged to pursue further political reform:
"I consider this instrumental in the future development of Azerbaijan as a modern, secular, democratic country. [The U.S. and Azerbaijan] share the same values. We are grateful for United States assistance in promotion of political process, process of democratization of our society and very committed to continue that cooperation in the future."
Azerbaijan is an ally of the United States in a region of great importance. The U.S. will continue to support the aspirations of the government and people of Azerbaijan to build a democratic and prosperous future.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.