State Department Assesses Azeri Elections

WASHINGTON–The State Department Wednesday issued a statement on the recent Azeri presidential elections which were marred by reports of violations and are being challenged by opposition groups.

The Azeri Central Election Commission announced president Haydar Aliyev as the winner. This announcement greatly troubled main opposition candidate Etibar Mamedov who vowed to challenge the CEC.

Below is the State Department’s statement by spokesman James P. Rubin on the Azeri elections:

Azerbaijan held its presidential election on October 11–1998. Six candidates competed in the election–which was observed by international and domestic monitors. On October 15–the Central Election Commission announced that President Haydar Aliyev won the election with 76 percent of the vote.

In the pre-election period–the government’s changes to the election law and its decision to end official censorship were welcome events. We regret–however–that the government and several; opposition political parties could not reach agreement on the question of the composition of the election commissions–which left several parties to boycott the election. Election day itself was marred by numerous and serious voting irregularities–including ballot stuffing–problems with the vote count and some inappropriate conduct by the election commissions. We are particularly concerned by restriction on the access of OSCE monitors to the vote counting process.

While the election process showed some improvemen’s over the 1995 elections in Azerbaijan–the OSCE’s preliminary statement found that the overall process fell short of international standards.

We look forward to increased cooperation by the Government of Azerbaijan with international organizations such as OSCE to improve democratic processes and structures in preparation for municipal elections in 1999 and parliamentary election in 2000. We also call upon the government to continue to take concrete steps to ensure freedom of the media and freedom of expression–association and assembly in Azerbaijan.

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