An İnterim Report on Long-term Observation of Parliamentary Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan of the Accosiation for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ASCDA)

Roundtable “Municipal system in Azerbaijan: realities and problems”
ACSDA conducted training for the north region observers in Khachmaz
Azerbaijani municipal elections run in accordance with standards: Ombudsman
Accosiation for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ACSDA)

The Republic of Azerbaijan
November 1, 2015

Long-term Election Observation
(May 1 – September 1, 2015)

The Republic of Azerbaijan having restored its state independence on October 18, 1991, parliamentary elections were held in 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010. As specified down in the II part of Article 84 and I part of Article 109 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan set the date of upcoming parliamentary elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan to 1 Novermber 2015 with the president’s decree dated August 28, 2015.

1995 and 2000 parliamentary elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan were held by mixed system. 100 of 125 places in the National Assembly (Milli Majlis) were formed on pluralist and majoritarian system, 25 of them formed on proportional representation system. However 2005 and 2010 parliamentary elections were held on pluralist and majoritarian system. 2015 elections will also be held on this system. Some opposition parties make proposals regarding with the restoration of proportional representation system and holding of parliamentary elections completely on this system. But the ruling party dominating in Milli Majlis states that, on the contrary, a pluralist and majoritarian system conforms much more with the Azerbaijan reality and advantages more effective activity of government than previous years.

Electoral systems have got the following different categories in the international experience:
•        Pluralist – majoritarian systems
•        Proportional representation systems
•        Semi-proportional systems
Pluralist – majoritarian system applied in the Republic of Azerbaijan is applied in democratic countries as USA and Great Britain.
11 parties have been represented in the parliament formed on 125 electorates after  2010 elections. 69 of 125 deputies represent a ruling party and 12 represent other 10 parties. 42 deputies are independent not representing any party. 5 deputy places have been empty for 5 years for objective and subjective reasons and no elections have been held for those empty places.
Parliament and state entities created necessary conditions for encouraging  and ensuring appointment of women to the higher state positions and higer stages of election administration. 10,5 % of Parliament members were women in 2005, 11,2 % – women in 2006. This figure became 16% in 2010 and is expected to increase in 2015.

The initial legislative documentation, on which the elections are based in the Republic of Azerbaijan are Constituion and Election Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Constitution was made ammendments in 1995 and 2009 years and the ammendments were made to the Election Code in 2003, 2010 and 2015 years.

A close cooperation in the direction of developing the Election Code was, first of all, made with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) and the International Foundation of Election Systems (IFES).

The European Parliamentary Delegations put forward 7 recommendations in 2013, OSCE/ODIHR put forward 27 recommendations in 2008, 17 recommendations in 2010, 20 recommendations in 2013, 40 recommendations basically as a reduplication of previous ones in August 2015 and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe put forward 4 recommendations regarding with the report on “Activity of Democratic Institutions in Azerbaijan” during the 2008 summer session. While analyzing it becomes clear that many of these recommendations have been developed referred to the previous recommendations regarding with the ammendments and changes made to the Election Code of  the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in 2003-2008 and the majority of new recommendations is the reduplication of previous ones. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe (VC) has recommended to implement the proposals put forward in previous years on the eve of 2013 presidential elections, however not solved by the commission members. As the Venice Commission was not engaged in local self-government issues, didn’t cooperate with the Republic of Azerbaijan during the municipal elections in 2014. No official data is given regarding with cooperation with this organization on the eve of Parliamentary Elections to be held on November, 2015. The Venice Convention basically put forward 16 recommendations during the cooperation with the Republic of Azerbaijan. OSCE/ODIHR put forward new recommendations in the Report (August 12-14, 2015) made by the Needs Assessment Mission on August 31, 2015.  Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan made totally 91 additions and ammendments to 145 Articles of the Election Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan on June 2, 2008 taking into consideration the recommendations given by the Venice Commission of CoE and some national and international organizations. Totally about 200 additions, ammendments and changes were made to the articles of the Election Code or a total article was removed from the Code in 2003-2015 years.

General information
Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ACSDA) is a national non-governmental organization established with the association of 10 NGOs in 2003. The main goal of creating the Association is to contribute to the development of civil society in Azerbaijan by uniting and coordinating the activity of nongovernmental organizations, entering the Association as well as the other representatives of the third sector. One of the goals of the Association is to contribute in forming dialogue between all participators of civil society (government, society, the third sector, etc.).
Key activities:
– organization of constructive joint activity with public organizations, central and local executive organs;
– active participation in the creation of normative-legal basis, necessary for the formation of civil society;
– organization of mutually beneficial cooperation between the NGOs and independent mass media;
– attraction of private sector to the solution of socio-humanitarian problems;
– legal, organizational and information support to the functioning and new NGOs;
– Support to a citizen’s initiative, involvement of population to the active participation in formation of civil society, forming of volunteer movement
– Assistance to creating favorable environment in finance-credit, tax, custom and other issues for NGOs activity;
– Legal, organizational and informational support to the active and newly established NGOs;
– Organization of system for staff preparation active in NGO sector;
·        Activity priorities:
– Organization of monitorinq for assisting free and fair elections;
– Protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens;
– Creation of social partnership for combating corruption;
– Support of the social and public development of the regions and local authorities;
– Improvement of the penitentiary system;
– Assistance in resolving the problems of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons;
– Environmental enlightenment

ASCDA has been participating in election process since its establishment taking into consideration that fair and transparent elections are of great importance in forming Civil Society.
Association has organized in the country observation of all elections and referendum been held since 2003 up today, Association representatives have observed elections held in Bulgaria, Georgia, Belorus and Moldova under different missions. ASCDA has published several methodical means and 13 booklets since 2004 up to present in order to assist in holding transparent elections. Documentation developed by the Association, Interim and Final Reports and e-versions of books are placed in the ASCDA web-site.

Books published by the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ACSDA) regarding with elections:

1.     Monitoring of 2008 Presidential Elections. Booklet. Law. Baku 2008;
2.     Presidential Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Documents (October 15, 2008). Baku 2008;
3.     Democratic elections and citizen activity. Baku 2008;
4.      Referendum ( March18, 2009). Baku 2009;
5.      Documents related with March 18 referendum. Baku 2009;
6.     Monitoring of 2009 municipal elections. Booklet. Baku 2009;
7.     Organization of election systems and election commissions: national and international experience. Baku 2010 (In Azerbaijani and English languages);
8.     Monitoring of 2010 parliament elections. Booklet. Baku 2010;
9.      Parliament elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Position of local and international organizations regarding with the results of November 7, 2010 elections Baku 2010;
10.   Media and election process: legislation and advanced experience. Baku 2010;
11.   Protection of voter rights. Baku 2011

ASCDA has held long-term observation of November 1, 2015 Parliamentary Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan in order to assist holding of upcoming elections transparent, free and democratic and evaluate conforming of elections to the international responsibilities of the Republic of Azerbaijan and international standards in the field of democratic elections and requirements of the Election Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
An Interim Report covers May 1 – September 1, 2015.
ASCDA Election Staff carries out wide activity regarding with upcoming November 1, 2015 parliamentary elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan. This activity includes the followings:
·        Organization of monitoring of the pre-electoral situation
·        Organization of the Election Administration activity monitoring
·        Organization of mass media monitoring
·        Development and presentation of interim report regarding with pre-electoral monitoring
·        Holding of seminars for increasing election activeness and trainings for observers in the regions
·        Registration of observers in the SEC
·        Gathering of observer documents and registration in the SEC in regions
·        Dissemination of press-releases describing activity of the election staff and election campaign process within the country and internationally
·        Coordination of the activity with other NGOs organizing the election monitoring
·        Preparation of booklets and bulletins
·        Establishment of relations and organization of cooperation between the OSCE, Council of Europe and Baku offices of other international organizations engaged in elections
·        Widening of cooperation with the NGOs of other countries engaged in election monitoring
·        Providing mass media with constant information about the election process
·        Announcing an initial report on election  outcomes in the Press Conference
·        Sending of the election results report to the local and international organizations
·        Analyzing positive and negative aspects of election campaign
·        Development and announcing of Final Report on parliamentary elections.

Pre-electoral political environment
As elections are very important factor in the political life of the Republic of Azerbaijan and showing of the development of civil society and democracy, are in the center of attention all the time. As previous elections, one of the main factors is that social-political situation in the country on the eve of elections should be stable. Azerbaijan has joined to the main international and regional conventions regarding with holding democratic elections.
Unfortunately present situation in several parts of the world, as well as regions close to the Republic of Azerbaijan is complicated and mostly such situation is a result of the policy implemented against the states and nations under democracy and human rights umbrella. Pre-electoral stable political environment in Azerbaijan became possible as a result of long-term internal and external policy while extensive international condition dominates all over the world, where contradictions increase among big strengthes. Presently pre-electoral social-political stability and existing perfect election system in Azerbaijan is one of the biggest successes gained after the restoration of state independence.
Forming dialogue between the political parties after the dialogue been existing between the Government and NGOs since 1999, which is the important factor in the social and political life of Azerbaijan should be evaluated positively. Holding of several meetings between the political parties on the eve of elections has been one of the main factors for political stability. 3-hours meeting between the Governmental officials and heads of 17 political parties representing the Government and opposition on the eve of elections and continuing conferences, getting consent regarding with widening format of such conferences and meetings   has contributed stability of pre-electoral political environment.
No problem, restrictive action or initiative was registered regarding with the activity of political parties, making preparatory measures before elections, gathering freely, using the right to freedom of speech and of the press, propagating own opinions and views independently.
55 state registered political parties are active in Azerbaijan. According to the results of last parliamentary elections held in 2010, 11 political parties are represented in Milli Majlis (Parliament): New Azerbaijan Party, Citizen Solidarity Party, the Motherland Party, the Social Wellfare Party, Azerbaijan Democratic Reforms Party, Party Umid, United Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP), Citizens’ Union Party, Great Establishment Party, National Revival Movement Party, Justice Party.
In accordance with Article 17-1 of the Law on “Political Parties” and Paragraph 2.3 of the President’s Decree number 625 dated May 8, 2012 of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the political parties represented in the Parliament are financed by state budget. Allocation of finance from the state budget to political parties have widened the activity spheres of political parties in comparison with previous years.
The main factor having positive impact on pre-electoral social-political environment is a civil society institute. Presently, number of state registered non-commercial organizations in the country is above 4000. Active participation of NGOs in the regions in pre-electoral educational activities have positively impacted on social-political environment. No problems or obstacles observed regarding with the organization of NGO program events in the capital and regions.
ASCDA considers that as more attention of citizens, political parties, NGOs and mass media was made to the international event as the I European Games held in June 2015 in the country, attention to election issues is less than previous months. Attention to the parliamentary elections in the republic has increased since July 2015. Favorable social and political environment, dialogue between the political parties and development of civil society institutes is better than previous years and situation of the freedom of speech and press on the eve of parliamentary elections creates favorable basis for holding transparent and democratic elections conforming to the international standards.