OSCE cancels plan to monitor Azerbaijan election

SEPT. 12 (The Conway Bulletin) — Europe’s main election monitoring watchdog, the OSCE’s ODHIR, said it won’t send observers to Azerbaijan’s parliamentary election on Nov. 1 because the Azerbaijani authorities had imposed too many restrictions to make it worthwhile.

The decision by the OSCE not to monitor Azerbaijan’s elections for the first time since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 is a major snub to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and pushes relations between Europe and Azerbaijan to a new low.

At a press conference later in the week with Czech President Milos Zeman who was visiting Baku, Mr Aliyev said: “As you probably know already, cooperation between the European Parliament and the Azerbaijani Parliament has been suspended. This is the result of the dirty campaign being waged against us.”

On Sept. 11, Azerbaijan cancelled an EU delegation visit to Baku and also started the process of pulling out of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, a group that pulls together the European Union and parliaments from the former Soviet Union.

The European Union and Azerbaijan have rowed over Mr Aliyev’s commitment to human rights and free speech. Azerbaijani officials have over the past couple of years detained and imprisoned several prominent human rights campaigners and journalists. Western governments have criticised Azerbaijan for the crackdown while Azerbaijan has said it is the victim of a smear campaign.

But the OSCE’s decision not to monitor Azerbaijan’s election is a watershed decision that pushes the one-time strong Western ally closer towards Russia.

The OSCE, which has never judged an election in Azerbaijan to be either free or fair, said that the conditions that the Azerbaijani authorities had set were just too restrictive to operate effectively.

It had wanted to place 30 long-term and 350 short-term monitors in Azerbaijan for the election but had instead only been allowed six long-term monitors and 125 short-term monitors.

“The restriction on the number of observers taking part would make it impossible for the mission to carry out effective and credible election observation,” the OSCE said in a press release.


>>This story was first published in issue 248 of the weekly Conway Bulletin newspaper


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