Election Tensions in Azerbaijan Trouble Europe

Embassies of European Union member states in Baku have called for free and fair parliamentary elections in November–and urge political parties in Azerbaijan to hold peaceful pre-election campaigns for the sake of Azerbaijan’s democratic development.

(azernews/noticias)–"Concerned about the deteriorating pre-election environment in Azerbaijan–the EU mission there has called on all parties to exert considerable effort in ensuring free and fair elections–according to British charge d’affaires in Baku Colin Wells.

On behalf of the embassies of EU states in Baku–I call on all parties to ensure that their campaigns are peaceful. Violence and threats are not in line with democratic election campaigns. The embassies praise the authorities’ steps on the implementation of the May 11 presidential decree on improving election practices and are ready to assist Azerbaijan in making certain the elections meet international standards," Wells said in a statement released by the British embassy there.

The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)–Ren van der Linden also expressed concern after visiting the region August 18-23.

Der Linden stressed in Strasbourg on Thursday that the November elections would be a test case for the country and an important opportunity for the international community to see that the government was doing its utmost to ensure free and fair elections.

Noting the importance of election monitoring–he reminded authorities that in January 2006 PACE would consider the report of its own 40-strong election observation mission. Der Linden stressed that authorities must reinforce and guarantee media independence and pluralism–including the reopening of the capital’s Public TV station.

He urged all political parties to approach the elections in a positive and constructive spirit of democracy–and called on the authorities to take all the necessary action to ensure that neither the opposition nor the media would continue to feel at risk as a result of their lawful and democratic activities.

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