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Azerbaijan Elections Fall Short


Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev casts his vote in Baku, Azerbaijan, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010.

The conduct of the November 7th parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan "overall was not sufficient to constitute meaningful progress in the democratic development of the country."

The United States fully supports the preliminary assessment of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that the conduct of the November 7th parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan "overall was not sufficient to constitute meaningful progress in the democratic development of the country."

It appears that the ruling party won a majority of parliamentary seats, and independent candidates loyal to the Azerbaijani leadership appear to have secured virtually all of the rest.

According to the U.S. State Department, the elections were peaceful and included the participation of all opposition parties as well as observers from domestic groups and the international community. In addition, centralized registration and the inclusion of record numbers of domestic observers were improvements, as was the modest increase in the percentage of women candidates.

But there were serious problems noted during the pre-election process and on election day itself. The pre-election environment was characterized by a lack of balanced media coverage of candidates, continued restrictions on fundamental freedoms of assembly and expression, and a deficient candidate registration process that, taken together, resulted in an uneven playing field for candidates. On election day, observers from the U.S. embassy in Baku and their counterparts from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, noted serious violations of election procedures, including ballot box stuffing.

European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton called on the Azerbaijani authorities to enhance their efforts to honor their international commitments regarding democratic principles and human rights.

The United States also called on the Azerbaijani government to focus on adjudicating election grievances fairly, transparently, and expeditiously, ensuring accountability for officials who are suspected of interfering with the proper conduct of elections. The U.S. further urges the government of Azerbaijan to respect freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

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