Mr.Ambassador, Azerbaijan recently held presidential elections. Incumbent President Ilham Aliyev received 84,55% of the votes which is an overwhelming majority. Could you please share your personal observations?
The people of Azerbaijan in a free manner expressed its conscious choice and will at the presidential elections on October 9, 2013.
It needs to be recalled that at the elections the people of Azerbaijan voted for the achievements that the country has made in recent years, and the future that it aspires to build. Active participation of voters is yet another testimony of the importance attached by the people of Azerbaijan to this election.
It also indicates that in a society like Azerbaijan, where literacy level exceeds 98 percent and culture of political awareness is extremely high, the people cannot remain idle or indifferent to its future. Given that Azerbaijani youth makes up approximately 66 percent of the Azerbaijani population, overwhelming win for the President Ilham Aliyev reflects that he managed to unite the support of young people and by that he wrote a new chapter with the young generation of Azerbaijanis – and that is a symbolic for a young democracy as Azerbaijan.
Therefore, by active participation, expressing their vote freely, and endorsing its outcome the people of Azerbaijan have given its own appraisal to the elections. Beyond people’s approval nothing more is needed to consider any election free, fair, democratic and successful.
There were some allegations and criticisms on the election process questioning the legitimacy of its results. To what extent do they portray the reality?
It is regretful that after the elections Azerbaijan has been subject to unfair and biased criticism. Such overcritical approach has even started before the announcement of the official outcome of elections and was obviously visible in the efforts of some media outlets.
Irony is that the true essence of the elections has been distorted and the firm will expressed by the people of Azerbaijan at the elections has been deliberately sidelined and only sporadic technical irregularities and violations, such as inadvertent activation of mobile apps of elections in test regime, has been blown out of proportions without proper investigation. As if that is not enough, such cases have been generalized, misused for certain political objectives and have been unfairly attributed to the whole outcome of elections.
There was divergence of conclusions of observation missions regarding the conduct and outcome of elections which some of them noticeably contradicted each other. What was the reason behind these controversies?
Long-term and short-term election observation was conducted by more than 53,000 observers, including 1,300 international observers, which represented 100 countries and 50 international and non-governmental organizations, such as OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of CoE , the European Parliament, CIS, GUAM, OIC, BSEC, ECO and the Council of Turkic Speaking Countries and others. All assessments by the international organizations and national observer teams have regarded the elections, free, fair, democratic and transparent.
The results of exit polls conducted by five independent institutions from Azerbaijan, United States and France have concurred with the official outcome of elections with small margins.
Only OSCE/ODHIR came up with the groundless and controversial conclusions about the outcome of elections, paying no heed to the report and assessment of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly observer team and observer mission designated by the OSCE Chairman in Office, whose members refused to undersign the report of OSCE/ODHIR. Such ridiculous condition where OSCE/ODHIR has found itself does not withstand any criticism. Throughout its inefficient existence OSCE/ODHIR has failed to produce a unified methodology of observing the elections. Therefore, this institution’s selective judgements on elections based on political views and “case by case” approach gives no room about the impartiality of this institution.
Could the disproportionate access to media outlets of candidates as claimed by few observers be regarded as one of the major concerns?
At the technical level all necessary preparations have been made ready to conduct the elections at the highest level. At the polling stations even web-cameras have been installed to monitor elections at online regime. In the meantime, all necessary measures have been implemented for free registration of candidates, election campaigning, freedom of assembly and expression in the election process. All candidates have also been provided with free broadcasting time at the national public TV. Also, in a country where unrestricted access to internet and social media is guaranteed, claims for lack of enough broadcasting time cannot be considered serious.
So do you suggest that presidential elections in Azerbaijan were ideal enough to disregard the shortcomings?
Of course, there is no perfect or ideal election in the world and in all cases certain irregularities and human errors are unavoidable.
But, without prior investigation making a hasty conclusions based on meagre technical irregularities and by means of which casting shadow over the entire elections are sheer acts of disrespect to the voters. The Central Election Committee of Azerbaijan has already started to investigate the irregularities if they have taken place at any polling station.
The rivalling candidate of National Council declared that the election results were seriously flawed alleging that the most of the people had casted their votes in his favour. Do you think that this could be the case?
So-called National Council and its candidate instead of admitting their defeat and drawing lessons for future elections have taken path of political obstructionism to compensate their failure.
If it is true that the candidate of National Council have overwhelming support of the people, then why they have only managed to bring about just 2000 people to their demonstration on October 12? Where was the popular support that National Council vainly boasting?
How do the Azerbaijani people project the future development of democracy in their country?
Democratic development is a conscious choice and an irreversible path of Azerbaijani people.
This choice has not been made just to please any institution or someone else. First of all, it is in the very best interest of Azerbaijani people.
Therefore, having a clear vision for the future and enjoying overwhelming support and trust of its people, the Government of Azerbaijan will further continue its efforts in building prosperous and democratic Azerbaijan.