The Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) analysed the legal-political environment in connection with the scheduling of the early Presidential Election in Azerbaijan on 11 April 2018 and concluded that although the presidential decree on bringing the election to a earlier date is in line with the Constitution and the Election Code of the country, it is against the principles of democratic constitutionalism and periodicity of elections.
EMDS believes that the decree was adopted without providing reasonable justification and holding open public discussions in the parliament and therefore the decision complicated the preparation of electoral participants, in particular, the potential candidates, domestic and international observers for the elections. Furthermore, bestowing the power of declaring early election to a subject that has a direct interest in such election the president is against the rules of democratic governance. This allows the president to schedule the election to a more suitable time for him or her (for example, when the president has higher approval ratings or before the expected fall of ratings) granting the president an unfair advantage over his or her rivals which is at odds with the requirements of democratic governance.
EMDS notes with regret that the imprisonment of 140 people, including journalists, bloggers and opposition activists, on politically motivated charges, restrictions of freedom of expressions, particularly the blocking of websites of independent media outlets and widespread persecution of social media activists indicate the lack of democratic environment prior to the election. Furthermore, the crackdown on civil society launched following the 2013 Presidential Election continues and limits the opportunities for civil society to engage in voter education, protection of election rights and domestic election observation.
Based on the implementation status of the recommendations of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), opinions of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding the previous elections, EMDS believes that the government failed to carry out sufficient measures to ensure the free expression of the public will, environment for fair political competition, freedoms of expression, assembly and association, as well as creating adequate conditions for the operation of political parties and civil society.
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