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OSCE ODIHR about Azerbaijani pre-electoral process: Freedom of speech restrictions, journalist arrests, media control

Upcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan are under the domination of one political force, the ruling party “Yeni Azerbaijan,” reads the interim report on elections in Azerbaijan by N1 observation mission of OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).


“A number of legal amendments made in 2012 and 2013 further limited freedom of expression and assembly, and restricted the functioning of civil society. The incumbent President Ilham Aliyev is standing for a third term, following constitutional amendments confirmed in a 2009 referendum which removed the limitation for a president to serve no more than two consecutive terms,” reads the document. It is also noted that the ruling party holds 70 out of 125 seats in the parliament of the country.


The organization is concerned with the absence of female candidates in upcoming presidential elections.


Moreover, according to the interim report, Electoral Code of Azerbaijan does not guarantee balanced media coverage of electoral campaigns.


“All television stations with nationwide coverage are under government’s control. Political debate is virtually absent on television,” note the observers. They add that the Internet is freer; however, it is used only by one third of the population.


OSCE ODIHR is also concerned with 8 journalists who still remain in jail, and physical attacks on media employees continue.

The document states that the pre-electoral agitation will start on September 16 and end on October 8.


“Some nominated candidates raised concerns regarding the shortening of the official campaign period, which limits their access to media and gives the incumbent president a disproportional advantage in the context of his frequent travels to the regions,” reads the report.


The presidential elections are scheduled in Azerbaijan on 9 October 2013. The previous presidential elections were held on 15 October 2008. The current president Ilham Aliyev is on this position for two terms already - since 2003. In March 2009 a referendum on making amendments to the Constitution was held in Azerbaijan, which repealed the restriction on one person remaining in office for more than two consecutive terms. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe stated in this regard, "Giving one person the right to be repeatedly elected to the presidency is seen as a step backwards in the development of democracy."



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