Parliamentary elections will be held in Azerbaijan on 9 February. Commonspace.eu will follow the elections through a daily blog.
Saturday, 18 February 2020
The parliamentary election campaign in Azerbaijan ahead of the 9 February parliamentary elections has now officially started. Commonspace.eu political editor looks at the process so far:
"The election campaign has started, and it is already clear that this will be an election different from the ones seen in Azerbaijan, at least in the last decade. The process of registration of candidateds appears to be going on seemlessly. Already more than 1600 candidates have been registered, and the number is expected to increase as the registartion process is completed. There appears not to be major problems with the registration. In the past many opposition personalities complained they were impeded from running due to some technicalities in their registartion process. This does not seem to be the case this time.
It is also interesting to see the role of the ruling New Azerbaijani Party in these first days of the campaign. This party has dominated all elections held in the last decade, and has a well organised national network, with representation in each constituency. On its website it says that it has 742170 members. It has fielded candidates in 123 of the 125 constituencies. A statement by the party at the start of the campaign on Friday said "The New Azerbaijan Party is expecting another grand victory in these elections". However it appears to be more restrained in its campaigning than in previous elections, even refusing the free time on the media alloted to it by the law. But the party is pushing for its candidates to engage with the voters.
Take for example Fətəliyeva Sevinc Həbib who is the YAP candidate in constituency no 30 in Surakhani Region, close to Baku, which has 36,947 registered voters. She was a member of the outgoing parliament. There are 28 other candidates already registered in this constitutency, so the voters are spoilt for choice. Surakhani is one of those regions that appears to have been left behind in the development processes that have taken place in Azerbaijan in recent years, so Ms Sevinc (picture below) may have to persuade voters to re-elect her, probably also hoping that the 28 other competitors will be enough to split the votes of the malcontents.
YAP can still rely on its party faithful to support its candidates, as can be seen from these people came to listen to Ms Sevinci in the town of Hovsan on Friday (17 January).
(pictures courtesy of YAP)
On the other hand independent candidates and those representing opposition parties appear to be very active.
One candidate who is receiving a lot of media attention is Rauf Arifoglu (picture below/picture courtesy of APA) the chief editor of the newspaper Yeni Musavat. He is contesting in the same constituency as Igbal Agazade, the leader of the Umid Party. This has created a lot of media attention and speculation. 17 other candidates are also already registered in this constituency No 35 in Khatai region.
However it is still too early to speak about election excitement. There is still a lack of spontaneity in the whole affair. It appears to be a new situation, and eveyone is threading carefully, But aleady enough has changed to make this election worth following".
Thursday, 16 January 2020
"A record number of candidates have been registered so far in connection with the early parliamentary elections in comparison with the previous parliamentary elections", according to the Chairman of the Central Elections Commission of Azerbaijan, Mazahir Panahov. According to him, as of yesterday, 1534 candidates were registered. The number is even expected to increase as the registration process is finalised in the coming days.
Official campaigning however can only start as from tomorrow (Friday).
Monday, 13 January 2020
Good Morning and welcome to this Daily blog on commonspace.eu focusing on the upcoming parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. The campaign has not officially started, despite the fact that the elections are on 9 February. So the attention is still on the process of registering candidates. This is a rather cumbursome process. A candidate needs to apply to start the process; He/she needs to be accepted on the basis of his eligibility (age residence etc); then he/she need to collect 450 signatures from his constituents; these forms need to be sent to the Central Elections Commission which decides on their "accuracy". Only after that are candidates registered. So whilst the deadline for starting the process has closed, the process has not finished so we do not know yet how many candidates will be contesting. In the past these procedures were used to eliminate some opposition personalities from the race. This time the process seems to be running more smoothly, but we will not know for sure until it is finished.
Saturday, 11 January 2020
The process for registering candidates for the 9 February parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan has closed. Whilst the procedures for registering candidates is not yet completed, it now appears that 28 members of the current parliament will not be seeking re-election. Azerbaijani media has published a list with the names of the outgoing MPs. 18 are MPs from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party; two were representing other parties, and eight were independent
Friday, 10 January 2020
We start this blog with an explainer, in the form of ten questions and answers, which will also put the elections in the wider context of what is going on in Azerbaijan, and in the wider region.
Q1 - What are these elections about and why are they being held now?
A - Parliamentary elections are being held in Azerbaijan on 9 February to elect 125 members of the Milli Meclis, the country's unicameral parliament. The elections were scheduled to take place in October 2020, but at the end of last year, in the midst of a wave of personnel changes at the highest echelons of the Azerbaijan government, the president moved to dissolve parliament and call early elections. At the time pro government sources hinted that the president was not happy with the support that he was receiving from parliament for his reform agenda.
Q2 - Azerbaijan's last parliament was completely dominated by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party? Is there any reason to think the new parliament will be different?
A - It is too early to say, but there are some indications that the government will welcome a more pluralistic parliament were genuine opposition forces are also represented. If there is no ballot stuffing, and if the votes are counted accurately, there is a chance this may happen. The level of political cynicism among the Azerbaijani public is high, but in Baku at least, there is a chance some opposition personalities may be able to motivate voters to go out and vote for them.
Q3 - Who will manage the organisation and running of the elections?
A - The same people who have managed Azerbaijani elections for the last fifteen years at least will also be responsible for running these elections. Many feel that this is not a good start, since problems with the electoral process have been recorded in practically all reports by international observation missions in this period. The elections are usually well organised; the process is properly resourced, but the shortcomings were also often blatant.
Potential candidates are required to support their nomination with signatures of 450 voters. In the past signature verification procedures have proven problematic. This will be one early indication of how things are going.
Q4 - Will there be international monitoring of the elections?
A - Yes. Most significantly the OSCE's ODIHR have already deployed a mission. ODIHR sent a needs assessment mission to Azerbaijan before Christmas. Their conclusion was that despite previous problems there was scope to deploy a mission. The mission started its work on 7 January under the leadership of Ambassador Peter Tejler, a Swedish diplomat, and consists of a core team of 12 experts based in Baku. ODIHR has requested 30 long-term observers to be deployed throughout the country from 14 January, as well as 350 short-term observers to monitor election day
Other institutions that will send monitoring missions include the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The European Parliament has decided not to send an observation mission. The Azerbaijan government has stated that they were never invited to do so anyway.
Q5 - How will the campaign play out?
A - Candidates and parties will only have 22 days of official campaigning, in the period immediately before election day. 8 February will be a day of silence. Azerbaijani political space outside election campaigns is very restrictive, so many consider this time as being too short. The parties and candidates will have some media access. It is however expected that most candidates will run their campaigns primarily on line.
Q6 -Are the political parties ready for this election?
A -The ruling New Azerbaijan party is well organised. It has branches in every constituency. It has in the past depended on administrative resources and the support of the regional executive powers to mobilise voters, but even without that its reach is nation-wide. The other political force with nation-wide reach is Musavat Party. This is one of the historical parties of Azerbaijan and has deep rooted support in some parts of the country. REAL has support in Baku and in some specific areas of the country. They have been preparing for this moment for some time, so they should be well placed to provide a challenge. It appears that the Ali Kerimli's Popular front will boycott the elections outright. Some smaller parties will concentrate on one or two constituencies and try to get their foot through the door in that way.
Q7 - And what are the issues on which the elections will be fought?
A - Essentially one can sum them up in one word - governance. Opposition parties will focus on government incompetence, corruption, lack of independent judiciary; social problems and human rights. On the other hand the government keeps emphasising stability. This point was very strongly made by president Aliyev in his end of the year speech on 31 December. The Azerbaijani government points out at the chaos and problems in Syria, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere. This argument still resonates with a section of the Azerbaijani public. Others however think that stability is an excuse for stagnation.
Q8 - Are Nagorno Karabakh and wider foreign policy issues likely to feature in the camapign?
Foreign policy and Nagorno-Karabakh are unlikely to feature prominently. On Karabakh there is broad consensus in support of the stance of the government. On foreign policy there may be some nuances, particularly as regards relations with Russia. Opposition parties think the Aliyev government is cozying too much to Russia, and there is concern amongst the non Russified part of the Azerbaijani intelligensia on this issue. It is interesting that this year's commemoration of the events of 20 January 1990 - Black January, when Soviet troops killed hundreds of peaceful protestors in Baku - will fall in the middle of the election campaign. It will be interesting to see how government and opposition will manage the anniversary.
Q9 - How do the elections fit in the process of change from the top initiated by president Aliyev in the autumn?
A - The process of personnel change in the highest echelons of the Azerbaijani state was, by Azerbaijani standards, a political earthquake. New people are now in key positions - from the cabinet of Ministers to the presidential administration, and not least as head of regions. But it is not clear what the end game is, nor is it necessarily the case that there is one. The old order was time tested. It had its logic, its way of working and its reflexes, developed over decades. The new order has none of these. One can therefore say that Azerbaijan has entered a new formative stage in its political development. It is in uncharted waters. The elections need to be seen as part of this process. If the result is a reasonably good expression of will, and a pluralistic parliament that can start providing a minimum level of checks and balances, than this would be a significant step forward. But that cannot be taken foregranted by any means.
Q10 - In the end do these elections matter at all to anyone else, except to the people of Azerbaijan?
A - Yes they do! Azerbaijan is a strategically significant country - the point where Europe meets Asia. It plays an important role in Europe's energy security. It is a country that has since it regained its independence, been also in search of its identity. The internal discussion on this is far from over. But politically Azerbaijan is part of wider Europe. As part of the EU's neighbourhood Azerbaijan also features in the context of Europe's strategy. The elections are important because they will send a message to external partners as to where Azerbaijan is heading. So perhaps these are the most important elections in this country in the last decade, and one that will be watched carefully outside.
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