Parliamentary Elections were held in Azerbaijan on 9 February. the ruling New Azerbaijani Party strengthened its control of parliament but a number of new MPs were elected, including a few aligned with opposition forces
Commonspace.eu is followed the process through a daily blog.
Monday, 10 February 2020
The overall assessment of the elections on the part of credible international observers has been largely negative. The preliminary findings of the OSCE/ODIHR mission speaks of a restrictive legislative and political space and of shortcomings in the electoral process including on election day and during the counting.
The full report is available on the OSCE/ODIHR website here
Commonspace.eu political editor told us: "There appear to be some new faces in the new parliament and this looks like a positive development. But those who were hoping this election was going to provide a democratic breakthrough would be disappointed"
According to figures released early on Monday morning by the Central Elections Commission of Azerbaijan, 2 547,982 people voted Sunday's parliamentary elections constituting voter turnout of 47.81 percent.
Based on exit polls, the ruling New Azerbaijan Party has declared victory.
It also appears that a number of opposition candidates and non partisan personalities have been elected.
Several groups that have monitored the elections have already released their assessment, but the main international observation mission led by OSCE/ODIHR will issue its preliminary findings this afternoon
Sunday, 9 February 2020
This blog will be updated throughout the day
Mixed reports coming in from across the country. Some opposition sources report mass violations, including ballot stuffing ( with pictures) and carousel voting.
Some election observers report smooth voting.
Some OSCE / ODIHR observers clearly violated their own operating procedures by commenting on the vote whilst pollling was ongong.
Voting has closed in the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. The Central Elections Commission (CEC) has reported voter turnout as of 17.00 - with two hours left for voting - at 44.84%
A number of companies have released exit polls after the elections. Official results are expected throughout the night
Voter turnout is reported to be 39.23% by 1500 local time. Voting closes at 19.00
It is election day in Azerbaijan.Voting has started at 08:00 in the morning and will end at 19:00 in the evening and is taking place at 5573 polling stations.
There are 5,329 460 people registered to vote.
Satrurday, 8 February 2020
Azerbaijan goes to the polls tomorrow to elect a new parliament. Voting will take place to elect 125 MPs in single mandate majoritarian constituencies.
Commonspace.eu political editor reflected on the election campaign in this comment for our blog:
"Nobody is expecting a political earthquake after this election, but given what we have seen in the election campaign a tremor or two now looks not only possible but likely.
The campaign has been colourful, and candidates engaged with enthusiasm. Tomorrow when they go to vote the voters will have a wide choice of personalities to choose from. And that is what the campaign was about - personalities. Anyone looking for policies, or traditional politics of political parties campaigning on election manifestos would have been dissapointed. Quite what the voters have made out of it will be clearer tomorrow. Azerbaijani politics has traditionally been built on patronage - in this the country is far from unique. This factor has been evident in this campaign too. Tomorrow many voters may decide not to bother to go and vote, reflecting a wide sense of dissilusionment with the political system. The government may be tempted to hide this fact of a low turnout by resorting to ballot stuffing. Thousands of local and international monitors are on hand, so if this happens it will be noted.
But even before that one can note two positive trends:
This election has allowed for a widening of the political space, which in the last decade has been tightly controlled and restricted. This has allowed a new generation of people who are interested in politics to engage for the first time. Politics is addictive. Once the genie is out of the bottle it will be difficult to put it back in. If someone thinks that the election over, they can switch politics off on Monday morning they are mistaken. A certain ammount of energy has been unleashed in the campaign. This now needs to be galvanised for the longer term.
The election campaign has seen a much less heavy handed approach towards opposition parties and personalities on the part of the government, the ruling party and the Central Elections Commission. This is also a positive trend. It would have been wiser, if the government wanted to send positive messages, for the election to have been managed by a new Central Elections Commission - one not tainted with past misdemeanors well recorded by election observation missions from previous elections. Nonetheless the new approach is welcome.
The question of whether the glass is half full or half empty remains. In the end the Azerbaijani people will draw their own conclusions, and that will very much depend on what happens on election day itself."
Thursday, 6 February 2020
Age of candidates
This is perhaps the most interesting piece of statistics to emerge so far from the CEC. It is the age groups of the candidates and reads as follows:
18-28 - 82 candidates
29 - 39 407
40 - 55 542
56-66 221 candidates
67+ 43 candidates
Wednesday, 5 February 2020
An interesting article by Arzu Geybullayeva on one of the blogs of the London School of Economics "European Politics and Policy about how this election is different from others in Azerbaijan in recent years.
read it here
Wednesday, 5 February 2020
An interesting article by Arzu Geybullayeva on one of the blogs of the London School of Economics "European Politics and Policy about how this election is different from others in Azerbaijan in recent years.
read it here
Monday, 3 February 2020
Another interesting statistic from this election: 299 candidates (22.58%) are women. The number of male candidates is 1025 (77.42%).
This according to the latest information from the CEC after a nu,mber of candidates withdrew from the race.
Sunday, 2 February 2020
The Azerbaijani equivalent of a safe seat. The constituency of Shahbuz-Babak in the autonomous republic of Nakhicevan is as hard core YAP territory as you can get. The MP is a local boy who has been in parliament for more than twenty years and who is one of the top leaders of the ruling party (New Azerbaijan Party - YAP). This weekend Novruzov rallied the faithful in the village of Jahri in the Babek region.
Saturday, 1 February 2020
Some updates on the international election observation effort connected with the 9 February parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. The CEC has said that they have accredited 842 international observers, representing 56 international organisations and coming from 55 countries.
However most attention will be focused on the main international observation effort. This is traditionally led by the OSCE/ODIHR. They have had a 30 person mission on the ground since 7 January. For election day they will be joined by 350 short term observers and the parliamentary observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Yesterday it was announced that the head of the PACE delegation will be Frank Schwabe. He is a senior German member of the Bundestag and leads the Socialists, Democrats and Greens group in PACE. The appointment of Schwabe as head of the PACE Mission is an indication that it is taking this observation effort very seriously.
It is also confirmed that there will be 65,766 local observers.
Friday, 31 January 2020
The candidate, the candidate's agent, the photographer and the blogger
Well actually they are one person. The indefatigable Mehman Husseynov, Azerbaijan's most famous blogger and photo journalist is also a candidate for the election in district number. 31 (Surakhani) Not only that he is also the agent of another candidate Ulvi Hassanov. Both Hussyenov and Hassanov have been given a warning yesterday by the CEC because the candidate of the ruling YAP party complained they were interfeing with his meeting with the voters. Some time ago that would have been enough for both to have been thrown out of the electoral process, but these are interesting times and the CEC decided to give them a warning instead. One suspects that during the election Mehman will be focussed more on his photographic skils than canvassing for votes, but in any case constituency no 31 is going to be one to watch. Mehman Husseynov, who is thirty years old, served a time in prison recently as he was found guilty of libelling a policeman. His detention resulted in an international outcry.
Tuesday, 28 January 2020
The wind of change may be blowing in corridors of some of the polling stations of Baku, but it has certainly not reached the town of Gabala yet. Incumbent veteran MP, 82 year old Fattah Heydarov is campaigning hard. He is running in constituency 116 where five other candidates are also contesting for the seat, including a candidate for the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, although judging by the picture on the wall Heydarov is not exactly an opposition candidate. (picture courtesy of Apa, Baku)
Monday 27 January 2020
At last, two weeks before the elections we kbnow how many candidates there will be. The CEC has issued the figures as follows 2431 people applied to be candidates. Some were not registered, and other withdrew their application.
According to the CEC Chairman Mazahir Panahov the number of candidates now is 1374. He also said that 248 of the candidates were running on behalf of 19 political parties.
In another interesting twist, the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) has announced that it has expelled a number of members who had put themselves forward to contest the elections, thus running against an official YAP candidate.
Sunday, 26 January 2020
More from Constituency No 35 (Khatai) where there appears to be a hotly contested race between the leader of the UMID Party, Iqbal Agazade, and the editor of the Yeni Musavat newspaper Rauf Arifoglu. Both these personalities are well known and have a high profile, and until recently they could be described as friends. But the two are campaigning very actively. APA news agency, which has been giving a lot of coverage to Agizadeh's campaign today carried another picture of the UMID leader meeting with his constituents. The report says that Agizadeh spoke about pensions and Children's allowances, but then he also spoke about the Karabaklh conflict: "They say that Iqbal Aghazadeh has a problem with the government...If our lands are not liberated from occupation, I have a problem. I have no problem with anyone else. If the government solves these problems, I will not have a problem with it."
It is here worth nothing that when Agizadeh was interviewed in 2011 during a wide-ranging survey of the political parties of Armenia and Azerbaijan conducted by LINKS he had mentioned that he was a veteran of the Karabakh conflict, as were many members of his party, and that the resoilution of the conflict was for his party an important priority. In the interview he did however mention the importance of regional co-operation as a means to resolving the conflict.
Both Agizadeh and Arifoglu describe themselves as opposition politicians, although some opposition forces accuse them of being too friendly with the government.
Saturday, 25 January 2020
This blog will over the next couple of weeks look at some of the people standing for election in the Azerbaijani Parliamentary Elections next month. We will try to identify interesting candidates - both pro government and oppostion.
We are starting with a female candidate, who appears to be moving from a position in the Executive Branch to a parliamentary post.
Hicran Husseynova has been for more then a decade the Chairperson of the State Committee on Women, Children and Family Issues. She started her carreer as an academic, and was appointed Chairperson of the State Committee in 2006. She will be running as a candidate for the ruling New Azerbaijan Party in the city of Sumgait, close to Baku. It is not yet clear if this is a demotion or promotion. It is likely that the government wants to have a younger person as Chairman of the State Committee in line with the reform project of president Ilham Aliyev. But it could also be that Husseynova will become one of the prominent new faces of the Azerbaijan parliament, especially on the international level.
Yesterday, Husseynova was interviewed by the website of the ruling party - yap.az and she shared some of her thoughts. Here is an extract from this interview:
On human rights and freedoms
On her work in the State Ciommittee on Women, Children and Family
On the progress of women in Azerbaijani society
On her constituency - the city of Sumgait
On her interaction with voters
On young people and entrepreneurship
Her appeal to the voters
There are thirteen other candidates contesting the election in constituency no 41 in Sumgait. Twelve are indepenendent. Konul Aliyeva is the candidate for the opposition Musavat Party
Friday, 24 January 2020
A delegation from the Parliamewntary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has issued a critical assessment of the pre-election environment ahead of parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. Under the heading "General environment not appropriate for democratic elections, says PACE pre-electoral delegation to Azerbaijan", the statement published on the Council of Europe website says that "following discussions with various interlocutors, the PACE delegation considered it necessary to stress that there was a lot of room for improvement and that the period of time left until election day should allow at least some improvements to be realised." It is not clear if the heading of the report is also part of the Delegation's statement.
The statement was issued under the signature of the members of the mission: Alfred Heer (Switzerland, ALDE), Acting Head of Delegation; Raivo Tamm (Estonia, EPP/CD); Georgios Katrougkalos (Greece, UEL); Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), monitoring co-rapporteur.
You can read the full statement of the PACE delegation on the Council of Europe website here.
The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly will deploy a 32 member delegation to monitor the election
Thursday, 23 January 2020
An interesting twist here. The Chairman of the Central Elections Commission of Azerbaijan, Mezahir Panahov, has told media that noone has the right to take away the mobile phones of citizens when they are in polling stations. In recent elections some observers had filmed incidents of ballot stuffing in some polling stations, after which some local election commissions started asking people not to bring in their mobile phone in the polling statioon. So now it seems this will; not be allowed, and people can bring in their mobile phones.
And more from Constituency No 35 (Khatai) where the incumbent MP, leader of the Umid Party, Iqbal Agizadeh is being challenged by an old friend, the editor of the Yeni Musavat newspaper, Rauf Arifoglu. Agizadeh was out meeting voters yesterday (picture courtesy of APA, Baku).
Wednesday, 22 January 2020
Aliyev hints at increased role of parliament in the country's reform process, as campaigning continues
Candidates in the Azerbaijan parliamentary elections have been busy meeting voters. In the meantime, President Ilham Aliyev, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, has hinted that the new parliament is going to have a much more important role in the politics of the country going forward. "In the coming month we will hold early parliamentary elections in order to enable the population to choose those whom they trust. After the elections, the parliament will become a very important part of the reforms", Azerbaijani media quoted the president as saying.
Among those on the campaign hustings is Asim Molazade, a sitting MP representing a small party, who is a familiar face on the international parliamentary circuit. (picture below). He is contesting in a Baku constituency (Nisami - 22), where there are ten other candidates.
A very different constituency is the Shamakir district which is located in the northwest of Azerbaijan, close to the Armenian border. In this constituency (No 98) the sitting MP, Sahiba Jaffarova from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), is defending her place against nine independent candidates. Shamakir is one of those constituencies where YAP expects to win easily.
Saturday, 18 January 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.