In this latest EPDE report, Anton Shekhovtsov investigates how politically biased international election observers, including several current and former European parliamentarians, were used by Azerbaijani authorities to relativize critical findings of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) to the early parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan.
- Western experts consider the regime of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to be authoritarian, but Azerbaijan regularly invites international observers to monitor parliamentary and presidential elections in the country. While organisations such as the OSCE ODIHR and OSCE PA tend to criticise the elections in Azerbaijan for their lack of genuine political competitiveness, limitations on freedoms, and restrictive media environment, Aliyev’s regime often manages to find Western observers who are willing to praise Azerbaijani elections as free, fair, and democratic.
- On 9 February 2020, Azerbaijan held early parliamentary elections. According to the Azerbaijani Central Election Committee, the elections were observed by 883 international monitors representing 59 international organisations and 58 countries. The two largest monitoring missions were the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM), formed by the OSCE ODIHR, OSCE PA, and PACE, and the observation mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The other monitors were either individual international observers or represented countries or organisations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic Speaking Countries, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation or the GUAM Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development.
- According to the IEOM, restrictive legislation and the political environment prevented genuine competition in the Azerbaijani parliamentary elections. However, the overwhelming majority of other international organisations and individual monitors endorsed the parliamentary elections. Evidence suggests that the Azerbaijani authorities carefully selected international monitoring missions that would praise the elections to relativise the findings of the IEOM.
- All the European observers who represented groups for interparliamentary relations with Azerbaijan commended the elections, as did European observers – politicians, officials, academics, journalists, and public figures – invited by the Azerbaijani parliament on an individual basis.
- An election observation mission organised by the European Council on Democracy and Human Rights and featuring 18 European politicians and experts was coordinated by a Polish far-right politician with a history of providing services of politically biased international observation to Russian politicians.
- Azerbaijani media deliberately misrepresented and misquoted critical voices of the independent election observers who formed a monitoring mission through the networks of the European Liberal Youth, a youth wing of the pan-European party Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
- After the IEOM publicised the preliminary results of its work, Azerbaijani media attempted to relativise and discredit those results with the help of loyal international observers, representatives of the ruling party led by Aliyev, and Russian officials and politicians.
Read the full report here in English
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