Human Rights Watch Condemns Azeri Elections Again

–Azerbaijan accused of intimidation and human rights violations prior to elections

In a report released earlier this week–the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Organization condemned Azerbaijan’s parliamentary elections for failing to meet international standards. This second report on the topic reiterates the shortcomings of the November 6 elections.

"Respect for human rights in the November 2005 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan fell far short of international standards–with serious violations occurring both prior to and on election day," says the report.

It continued: "Interference with opposition campaigns overshadowed the steps the government took to improve the election environment. As a result–the elections were not free or fair even before the first vote was cast."

Prior to the elections–the Azeri government used allegations of coup d’etat plots to arrest opposition leaders–ban rallies–and harass protesters. President Ilham Aliyev’s ruling party exerted unfair pressure on voters and enjoyed the favor of a biased media.

Although Aliyev had implemented reforms to make the election fair–the HRW report claims that due to their late introduction and violations on election day–they had "little effect."

Election day itself proved Azerbaijan’s critics right–as both local and international observers reported "ballot box stuffing–repeat voting–and tampering with results protocols." There were also reports that "government officials interfered in the voting process and attempted to influence voters."

Aliyev’s Yeni Azerbaijan party won a majority of the 125 seats and controls many of those won by independents and smaller parties. The major opposition parties won only 10 seats.

In light of these violations–the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)–EU–US–and Council of Europe all criticized the elections and called on Azerbaijan to take "corrective actions."

The Azeri government has launched investigations into allegations of fraud. However–they "continued to limit freedom of assembly–refusing to authorize several rallies proposed by the opposition."

Some members of the opposition have vowed to keep protesting until election results are annulled.

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