STRASBOURG, France, October 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
Azerbaijan has welcomed the decision to retain the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) election observer mission despite moves in Strasbourg for it to be cancelled just one month from polling day.
Parliamentary elections will take place on November 1st and a pre-election team from PACE has already visited the country. Upon its return on September 23rd, it reported that it "welcomed the openness of the Azerbaijani authorities" and that the NGOs, human rights defenders and civil society activists it met "unanimously called for this election observation mission by PACE to go ahead".
But despite these positive words, a September 28 bureau meeting ahead of the PACE Autumn session considered calls to cancel the observer mission altogether.
The proposal was defeated by 17 votes to 10, an outcome Azerbaijani MP Elkhan Suleymanov said was a "victory for good sense."
"The PACE election observer mission is important for maintaining institutional dialogue with the parliament of this state," he said.
"If it had been cancelled we would have had a situation in which Belarus - which has been excluded from this institutional dialogue with Europe - receives an election observer delegation while Azerbaijan does not."
In fact, the preliminary delegation noted in its pre-election statement: "A large number of independent interlocutors (in Azerbaijan) stressed that progress has been made since the last parliamentary election five years ago, and that the country should not be isolated," it stated.
Suleymanov said that in voting to go ahead with the election observer mission, PACE has "stood strong" and defended its independence in the face of pressure by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose ODIHR observer mission was cancelled last month because, it said, of Baku's restrictions on its observer numbers. According to Suleymanov, ODIHR's requests were "so preposterous, that one can only conclude their proposals were never meant to be accepted."
After the re-election of President Aliyev in 2013, the European Parliament and PACE observer delegations released a joint statement that found the election to have been a "free, fair and transparent electoral process."
Suleymanov said the PACE delegation will again find that to be the case at the start of November.
SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor