A restrictive political environment prevented genuine competition in Azerbaijan’s early parliamentary elections on Sunday, according to international observers who also said that despite the large number of candidates, voters were not provided with a meaningful choice.
According to preliminary results of the snap elections, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) won 71 seats in the 125-seat parliament, with officials in Baku reporting a 47.8 percent voter turnout.
The decision to call snap elections was made during a November special session of the ruling YAP party, which explained that the current parliament did not correspond to the political course led by Aliyev and did not advance Aliyev’s reforms agenda.
The observation mission, a joint effort of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), noted that many of the 1,314 candidates used social media to reach out to the voters, but this did not compensate for the absence of campaign coverage in traditional media.
Significant procedural violations during the counting and tabulation of votes on election day raised concerns over whether the results were established honestly, the observers said.
“I regret very much that what could have been improvements did not lead to a competitive environment enabling truly democratic elections. Counting [votes] on election day was disappointing,” said Artur Gerasymov, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observer mission.