Report on local democracy in the republic of Azerbaijan - CG/BUR (6) 172

Rapporteurs:
Alan LLOYD (United Kingdom, L)
Guy MILCAMPS (Belgium, L)

Document adopted by the Bureau
on 9 May 2000

I. INTRODUCTION

1. Background information

1. Further to the application for membership to the Council of Europe by the competent authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in September 1999, the Bureau of the Congress appointed Mr Alan LLOYD (United-Kingdom) Rapporteur on local democracy in Azerbaijan.

2. As part of this procedure and further to an invitation from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, a Congress Delegation observed the first local elections in this country on 12 December 1999. Mr Alan LLOYD accompanied the Delegation in order to gather information on the prospects of local democracy, simultaneously taking due account of the electoral process. He headed the CLRAE Delegation during the observation mission and held several political meetings.
A report on the above elections and meetings was approved by the Congress Bureau on 29 February 2000 (cf. Appendix 1).

3. The results of the above elections were cancelled in 60 municipalities by decision of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of the Republic of Azerbaijan because of serious infringements that could influence the results of voting and accounting processes.
Moreover, the elections were not completed in 16 municipalities of some constituencies because of people's unsatisfactory participation.
According to the Law "on the Rules of the Municipal Elections", new local elections were organised on 26 March 2000 in 75 municipalities. Further to the invitation of the President of the CEC, a Congress Delegation observed these repeated elections. Mr Jean-Claude FRECON (France) headed the delegation. On this basis, the Congress’ Bureau approved a second report (cf. Appendix 2).

4. As Mr LLOYD was not able to take part in the observation of the repeated elections, Mr Guy MILCAMPS (Belgium) was appointed as co-rapporteur on local democracy in Azerbaijan.
Immediately after the above observation on 27-29 March 2000, Mr MILCAMPS held several meetings with a number of the Azerbaijani authorities concerned with local self-government1.

5. Mr Mazahir PANAHOV, Head of the International Relations Department of the CEC arranged the logistics, transport and interpretation of the different missions of the CLRAE Delegations in co-operation with the President’s Administration.
The CLRAE should like to warmly express its gratitude to the Azerbaijani authorities for their hospitality and thank the above Department and the President’s Administration for the exceptional welcome and the perfect organisation of the visits.

6. After giving some general information on the political situation, this report – prepared by the rapporteurs assisted by Professor Rusen Keles, Turkish Member of the Committee of Indipendent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government - describes the legal framework of local self-government, recall the main conclusions concerning the electoral process, focus on the prospects of the future functioning of the newly established local authorities and draws some conclusions at the intention of the Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly.

2. General information on the political and socio-economic situation

7. As already highlighted in the report on the local elections held on 12 December 1999, the Republic of Azerbaijan became an independent state in 1991. It is located in the Trans-Caucasian region of the Caspian Sea. It has common borders with Armenia, Georgia, Iran, the Russian Federation and Turkey. The total population of Azerbaijan is around 7.8 million, 53% of which lives in urban areas. 83% of the ethnic population are Azeri, and the official language is Azerbaijani. Islam is the principle religion, respected by more than 80 % of the population2.

8. Per capita Gross National Product is 318.5 US Dollars. The main sources of wealth are oil, natural gas and mineral resources. The majority of the population remains poor by international standards. The economic reforms of Azerbaijan are supported by the IMF, IBRD and EBRD.
The Republic of Azerbaijan established diplomatic relations with 134 other countries following its independence from the former Union of the Socialist Soviets Republics. It is a member of 30 international and regional organisations and is a Party to 110 treaties3.

9. Since the establishment of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan, the country has experienced a number of political upheavals as two successively elected or acting Presidents were ousted in 1992 and in 1993. Another factor that is important for the political stability is the territorial conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, which has resulted in the deaths of over 20 000 people. More than 900 000 people are estimated to live as refugees of displaced persons as a result of that armed conflict. They are faced with a serious problem of integration into their present surroundings. All these economic, social and political factors make the development of a democratic society in Azerbaijan more difficult.

10. The Constitution of Azerbaijan was put into effect in 1995. The referendum took place on the same day as the first legislative elections since the declaration of independence in 1991. The Constitution introduced a strong presidential regime and established the foundations of a unitary, secular, democratic state based on the respect for the rule of law and the separation of powers. However, there are doubts as to what extent, in practice, the principle of the separation of powers will be respected as a constant source of inspiration for all institutions concerned4. In other words, it is assumed that the influence of the centralised features of the former regime upon the present one could persist for some time to come.

11. The National Assembly (Milli Majlis) consists of 125 deputies. The majority party, namely the New Azerbaijan Party, under the leadership of the present President of the Republic, occupies 53 seats in the Parliament. As the Head of the central executive power, the President of the Republic has a strong position in the political life. He has the authority to appoint the Prime Minister and the ministers and the members of the executive authorities at both central and local level. The power of the President to decide on holding referenda and parliamentary elections enhances his position in case of conflict between himself and the Parliament. As such he occupies a dominant position within the State both in law and in practice.

12. His role in the formation of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) is another example of his powerful position that might create significant consequences. The Law on the CEC stipulates that half of the Commission’s twenty-four members must be appointed by the Parliament and the rest by the President of the Republic. This formulation gives the incumbent President an apparent advantage particularly since the present Parliament is highly dominated by the political party of the President.

13. With this in mind, it should be observed that local authorities have never been elected in Azerbaijan (before 12 December 1999 and 26 March 2000) but were appointed by the President of the Republic, representing the system of the central executive power at local level (“deconcentrated powers”). This is also true for the Governor of Baku who heads the "deconcentrated" City Administration, with 11 District Administrations being subordinated to it. The Governor remained in office after the setting up of municipal bodies in all districts of the country.

14. There are now 2665 local entities in the country. This number had been reduced from 4500 as a result of the consultation carried out by central authorities a few months before the elections held in December 1999. In accordance with the transitional provisions of the Constitution of Azerbaijan, the municipal elections were supposed to be held within 2 years from the date of the adoption of the Constitution, i.e. 12 November 1997, but they were postponed several times until the date of 12 December 1999 was established.

15. After this date and until the repeated elections (26 March 2000) the municipalities were 2589. According to preliminary information, municipalities have now been established in the whole country, except the Narimanov district of Baku.
The central authorities responsible for local self-government are the Ministry of Justice and the President's Administration which continues to coordinate the deconcentrated executive powers.

II. THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK

1. Preamble

16. The review of the legal texts of the Republic of Azerbaijan on local self-government made during the observation of the elections, indicated that the Republic of Azerbaijan has made a serious effort during the last few years to incorporate a number of the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in its domestic legislation.

17. The definition of local self-government and its scope, the protection of local authority boundaries, local authorities' responsibilities and their appropriate administrative structures, working conditions of elected and appointed officials, administrative control and supervision, financial resources of municipalities, the right to associate and the legal protection of the institution of local self-government are regulated in the Constitution and in the respective laws with a reasonable degree of consistency with the democratic values reflected in the principles of the European Charter.
There seems to exist an apparent intention and a serious effort on the part of the National Parliament and the Executive organ of the State to rely on democratically constituted local authorities as instruments of democratisation, effective administration and the decentralisation of power.

18. However, the legal texts in question should be now further improved and correctly implemented by the competent central authorities, taking into account all principles enshrined in the Charter as well as the real problems encountered by the newly established local self-governments.
The chapters below will try to identify the major problems and possibly indicate the way forward.

2. The Constitution

19. Chapter IX (Section 4) of the Constitution is devoted to municipalities (article 142 - 146). Chapter X (Section 5) on the legislative system refers to Municipalities' acts (article 150). These provisions set forth very important principles concerning the organisation of local self-government (elections) work of municipalities (bodies, instruments) and their powers and finances. It would be desirable that the very concept of local self-government as such be achieved by adding it in the fundamental text governing the organisation to the state. In accordance with article 8.3 of the European Charter, the Constitution should stipulate that all control on municipalities should normally refer only to their activities and be aimed just at ensuring compliance with the law and with constitutional principles. Another general principle which could be usefully included in the Constitution to provide a very democratic basis for the development of local self-government in Azerbaijan is the subsidiarity principle. This principle set forth in article 4.3 of the European Charter establishes that "public responsibilities shall generally be examined, in preference, by those authorities which are closest to the citizen", and that "allocation of responsibilities to another authority should weigh up the extent and the nature of the task and requirements of efficiency and economy".
Other items like the procedural questions could easily be regulated by law or the municipalities' statutes.

20. From a language point of view - but this could be also a translation problem as the Rapporteurs examined a text written in English - the term "municipality" is used to indicate local authorities and at the same time the bodies governing them. It would be preferable to limit the use of the term "municipality" to the concept of "local authority" and use other more appropriate expressions (eg council, executive, mayor) when referring to the bodies elected or appointed to rule the municipalities.
The main legislative texts on the local election process and local self-government based on the Constitution are the Law on Rules for Municipal Elections and the Law on the Status of Municipalities.

3. The Law on Rules for Municipal Elections5

21. The electoral law, passed by the National Parliament on 18 October 1999, is a major legal text governing the election process at local level. It provides a good bases for local constituencies to choose freely their representatives.The law meets the fundamental requirements of the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Chapter 3).

22. The law sets out clear rules for the establishing and functioning of Territorial and Precinct Election Commissions on a non-partisan basis, with the political parties whose candidates stand for the local elections being granted the right to be represented in them, with their status being equal to that of other commission members.

23. Another significant positive aspect of the law is the access of domestic and international observers to monitor all the stages of the election process. This strengthens the transparency of the commissions’ work.

24. The system of appeal is also satisfactory, passing through Territorial and the Central Commissions, and if necessary to a court, thus providing for an efficient and speedy complaint procedure against the decisions taken by electoral commissions .

25. Nevertheless there are still some issues that need to be addressed in a more clear and transparent way to minimise the possibilitity of election irregularities. These should include procedures for establishing voters registers at precint level, registration of the candidates, rules regulating election campaign, in particular the use of mass media, as well as some more specific issues like the use of mobile ballot boxes and aggregation of the election results.

4. The Law on the Status of Municipalities6

26. At the very beginning, when referring to the concept of local self-government, the law defines it as a "non-governmental system" (Article 2.1).
The expression "non-government" does not seem appropriate. In accordance with article 3.2 of the European Charter, it is very important that the law recognise local self-government as a public authority entitled "to regulate and manage a substantial share of public affairs (…)". With this in mind, local authorities should never be confused with "non-governmental organisations (NGOs)" and should be included by the law in the system of State bodies (cf. Article 14.4 of the law in question).

27. The term "municipality is often used to describe at the same time local authorities (as an entity) and the bodies elected or appointed to govern these authorities (articles 15, 16, 17, 18). This confusion should be avoided (cf paragraph 20 above).
Another important distinction should be made with regard to local authorities' executive bodies and the administration (officials and employees) (cf article 18).

28. Since most of the responsibilities of local authorities mentioned in articles 4, 5 and 6 are at the same time within the authority of the State, once can wonder which is the dividing line between respective powers of local and central governments. The above articles state that responsibilities are granted to municipalities in order to solve important social, economic and environmental issues which are not provided for or are in addition to the programmes carried out by the State authorities in the above fields.
This seems to indicate that responsibilities granted by law to local authorities are not full and exclusive as requested by Article 4.4 of the European Charter.

29. On the basis of Article 7.1 of the European Charter, it is very important that the conditions of office of local elected representatives provide for free exercise of their functions, based on the law and are not left to the good will of the central authorities concerned.
From a formal point of view, all provisions concerning the statute of local elected representatives should be included in the same article or chapter.

30. The term "statute" used by Article 50 on "the protection by courts of local self-government" should be replaced by the term "decisions" which would enlarge the scope of the legal protection of local self-government.

31. Article 15.6 sets forth that new elections shall be organised when a member of the municipal council has to resign for any reason. In this case, it would be more simple to foresee that a substitute take over the seat of the resigning member, rather than holding new elections.

32. No mention is made of municipalities' rights to take part in the activities of international bodies (intergovernmental or non-governmental) representing local authorities' interests. A provision should be added to cover this point.

5. Other pieces of legislation

33. It is worthwhile noting that just on the eve of the local elections held on 12 December 1999, the Parliament passed the law on Municipal Territory and Land (7 December 1999) and the law on Local Finances (7 December 1999), after adopting the Model Charter of Municipalities in view of the setting up of their specific statutes (15 October 1999). After this, several specific laws were passed by the Parliament in December 1999, ie the law on Local Referenda and the law on Municipal Services (24 December 1999).
More recently the Parliament adopted the law on Municipal Property (7 January 2000).

34. When examining these laws, the Rapporteurs did not find any major contradiction with the principles set forth by the European Charter in the sectors concerned. However, the Congress should examine these texts more closely in the future in order to make more detailed comments also concerning their implementation. With regard to the law on Municipal Property, it must be noted that on 15 January 2000, the President of the Republic issued a Decree ordering the Cabinet of Ministers and Executive Powers to organise within 15 days the transfer of the necessary property to municipalities.
Further to the meetings with the local representatives concerned and the information collected, the Rapporteurs have doubts concerning the real implementation of this Presidential decree.

35. Besides, the President of the Republic also published a Charter of Executive Powers (deconcentrated authorities of the State). Moreover, chapters or articles on local self-government could also be found in the legal texts of the following laws: Land Code; Tax Code; Law on Agrarian Reform; Law on Property.

6. The bills

36. Concerning the acts in preparation, the Congress representatives were informed that the Parliament had already passed a draft law on the creation of a co-ordination body of municipal councils (first reading), a draft law on the status of local elected representatives (second reading), and that it is currently discussing a draft law on the relationship between decentralised and deconcentrated authorities and a draft law on the common activities of the same authorities.

37. Since these texts have not been made available to the Congress Rapporteurs, the latter are not in a position to comment on the conformity of these documents with the principles of the European Charter.
Nevertheless, it should be stressed that all these draft laws are of a paramount importance for the development of local democracy in Azerbaijan.
With this in mind, the Congress should ask the Speaker of the Parliament for these texts in order to examine their conformity with the European Charter.

38. The Congress representatives were also informed that in the future the Parliament could also discuss the question of the territorial organisation of the country based on the results of the local elections, but that it is now too early to adopt a law on this matter.

39. Further to the repeated request from the Rapporteurs, the Director of the Department of Legislation and Legal Expertise of the President’s Administration provided a draft law on the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan. This text is primarily, if not exclusively, concerned with the status of Baku as the capital of the State.
In this respect, one should observe that this draft law:

a) does not establish any status of the city of Baku from the administrative point of view;

b) does not give any precisions on the powers of the administrative bodies which are responsible for governing the city (Executive State powers and municipalities).

The only provision of the draft law (article 6) concerning the contents of local self-government, describes the way in which municipalities are set up in the capital. It is stated that they will be formed by the local population through elections, local referenda and also through elected municipal representatives. There is nothing new in this formulation and in the next sentence which provides that local self-government in Baku will be exercised in accordance with the general procedures.

40. The draft law gives the impression that no special local elected structure is envisaged for Greater Baku and that the central authorities are not yet ready to share their powers with local elected representatives. In other words, it appears that Baku will not have an elected municipal council nor a mayor of its own in the near future and that the 11 district municipalities will continue to be the only democratically constituted local components of Greater Baku.

7. Coordination and information of local authorities

41. In order to avoid coordination and information problems, a coordination centre has been recently created within the Ministry of Justice by a Presidential Decree (issued on 8 February 2000). Its official name is the "Centre for Assistance to Municipalities in Public Service and Methodology". This centre will organise information seminars on the basis of a work programme elaborated by the competent department of the Ministry of Justice. It will provide all kinds of technical and practical information needed by the new local elected representatives and officials.

III. THE LOCAL ELECTIONS PROCESS

1. The elections held on 12 December 1999

42. The first democratic elections were held in 2 665 municipalities of the Republic of the Azerbaijan. 35 600 citizens out of 43 000 were registered as candidates. Nearly 51% of them were independent and 49% were members of 26 political parties that took part in the elections (cf. Appendix 3).
According to official statistics, provided by the CEC, 52.6% of 4 312 265 voters included in the voters lists across the country took part in the poll.

43. The CLRAE delegation that observed these first local elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan found them on the whole well organised while the general climate was calm, open and friendly. The delegation commended the authorities concerned with the elections for the great amount of work done not only to train the staff of electorate commissions but also to inform the population on the municipal elections through the mass media and special publications.

44. Nevertheless, the CLRAE delegation noted a number of serious irregularities that to a great extend prejudiced the integrity of the electoral process. The run-up period was marred by a number of complaints of the exclusion of the opposition parties’ candidates. Among the irregularities observed on election day the most important were as follows:

· Unauthorised persons present in the polling stations behaved obtrusively with the work of the election officials and voters;
· A mismatch between signatures registered on the voting list and votes found in the ballot box;
· Ballot stuffing;
· Attempts to « mobilise » voting by PECs chairmen who seemed to think that such action was commendable
· Unauthorised use of the mobile voting box;
· Ballot paper manipulations during the polling

45. The elections were completed in 2 591 municipalities. The results were validated in 51 cities, 8 districts of cities, 123 towns and 2409 villages.
As already mentioned, in 60 municipalities, the results were cancelled by decisions of the CEC of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the respective Territorial Election Commissions, because of serious infringements that could influence the results of voting and accounting processes (163 polling stations).
The elections were not completed in 16 municipalities of some constituencies because
of the voters’ low turnout.

2. The repeated elections held on 26 March 2000

46. New elections were held in 75 municipalities of the country on 26 March 2000. New candidates were nominated by 13 political parties. In some municipalities, all of the candidates standing for the election were independent.

47. The CLRAE delegation which observed these repeated elections was informed by the authorities concerned that the CEC had taken due note of the remarks made by the previous CLRAE observation mission. All the necessary measures had been undertaken to ensure strict compliance of the electoral process with the law during the run-up and polling. Special meetings and seminars had been organised to discuss with commissions’ members the irregularities observed during the last municipal elections. At a meeting with the President of the Republic, Mr Heydar Alyev, the chiefs of the executives bodies were warned against any interference into the electoral process. Simultaneously, they were asked to provide all the necessary technical assistance to the electoral commissions’ activities.

48. Even though the repeated elections were limited to a few municipalities, the delegation found a significant improvement in the voting and counting procedures in comparison with the first nation-wide local elections December last. The administration of the electoral process had been fair and impartial, no restriction had been placed on citizens wishing to take part in the election as a candidate or a voter, and freedom of movement, assembly, association and expression had been respected. According to the official information provided by the CEC, the partial elections were completed with 48.2 percent of the voters included in voters' lists having cast their votes in 74 municipalities, except the Narimanov District Municipality. 566 of candidates whose names were on the ballot papers in polling stations were elected to municipalities.

49. As a result of the partial elections, municipalities were established in 3 cities, 1 town and 70 villages in 25 Election Territories.

50. In compliance with Part I of Article 41 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On the Rules of Municipal Elections", elections were invalidated in the Narimanov Election Territory # 5 of Baku City, because the participation of voters included in the voters lists was less than 25 percent.
51. The CEC stated that as a result of the local elections held on 12 December 1999 and the partial elections held on 26 March 2000, 2 665 elected bodies - municipalities - have been set up which have started to implement local self-government.

IV. RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

52. As municipalities have just been created, it is self-evident that it is too soon to make detailed comments on the real functioning of local governments in Azerbaijan.
However, further to the observation of the elections process and the meetings with the authorities concerned, the Congress representatives pointed out some issues which, in the future, could undermine the development of a genuine system of local democracy in the country.

53. These points could be summed up in the following recommendations:

a) The Azerbaijani authorities viewed the first local elections in the country as a clear indication of their will to go on with the process of democratisation. There were extremely high expectations from them in terms of the acceleration of the process of accession of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe. It is important to initiate local elections in a country where an extreme authoritarian regime continued to exist until several years ago. Therefore, the election of 2665 municipalities (97.2 percent) at the first round can be regarded as a success.
However, there are other conditions to be met in the electoral process. Beyond the legal guarantees for the existence and operation of local elections, practical implementation of certain basic civil and political rights are vitally important.

Irregularities observed during the December 12 elections were not of minor character and they have caused the cancellation of some results. The decision to renew local elections in more than 70 localities may be regarded as an expression of confidence in the virtues of democratic system. As already said, even though the repeated elections were limited to a very few municipalities, the CLRAE delegation found an improvement in the voting and counting procedures in comparison with the first nation-wide elections of December 1999.

There still seems to be reluctance on the part of the electors to participate in local elections. Although the minimum level required (25 percent) has been achieved in most of the municipalities in the first round, overall participation rate did not exceed 55 percent in both elections.
The number of the independent candidates is strikingly high. 799 out of 2591 elected mayors (30.8 percent of the total) do not belong to any political party.
It seems that some opposition parties preferred to present their own candidates as independent in order to avoid being wiped out of the official list of candidates.

All these aspects should be taken into consideration when organising new local elections.

b) When the above elections were held, in addition to the Constitution of 1995 there were only two laws in force concerning municipalities. Since then, six more important legislations have been published. It remains now to improve the Constitution and the above legislations to take into account all main principles enshrined in the European Charter and to implement these principles with a view to signing and ratifying it in the very near future. Moreover, new laws, mentioned in Chapter II.6, and notably the bills on the status of Baku, and on the status of local elected representatives, have to be adopted soon to complete the existing legal framework.

c) A strong concern refers to the relationship between the local elected authorities and the locally acting central executive authorities. It stressed the importance to clarify these relationships in the future with a view to making a total distinction between responsibilities and functions of the bodies concerned. It can be hoped that in order to clarify the situation, the draft law on the relationship between local self-governments and local executive powers and the draft law on their common activities will soon be adopted by the Parliament.

d) The role of central power in its relationships with various organs of local authorities should not constitute a deterrent for strengthening local self-government. In other words, the scope, nature and limits of the control and supervision of the central power over municipalities should be limited to the legality of acts and not affect their expediency.
In this respect, the final assessment of the compatibility of local acts with national acts should be left to the judiciary institutions.

e) The administration of Baku as a metropolitan centre needs to be given special consideration. Management of a city like Baku with more than 2 million inhabitants should rely on a democratic structure directly elected by the citizens. In this respect, it is difficult to accept that the administration of Greater Baku is made only by deconcentrated executive powers which are not accountable to any elected council locally. Within this context, administrative, legal and political relationships between the governor of Baku (appointed by the President of the Republic), the appointed representatives of districts and the elected municipal organs have to be clearly defined.

f) As already mentioned when referring to the law on the Status of Municipalities (cf paragraph 28), the Rapporteurs think that responsibilities and resources given to local authorities are very limited and it will be difficult for the municipalities to provide effective services to citizens in these conditions.

g) The concrete share of property between State bodies and municipalities represents one of the most difficult questions to solve in order to allow a real development of local democracy in Azerbaijan.
In this respect, it is important that not only properties be transferred to local elected authorities but also that the properties transferred should constitute a real resource and not just a source of supplementary expenses.

h) Concerning the right of taxation of private properties, it should be urgently and clearly determined which properties can be taxed by local authorities on the basis of precise maps and lists, which should be established by the State authorities in consultation with the municipalities' representatives and take into account their needs.

i) Much needs to be done in terms of education and training of both elected and appointed officials. In this context, the CLRAE recommends that a special education and training programme should be elaborated for them that could be run with the assistance of its European Network of Training Organisations for Local and Regional Authorities (ENTO).
The information activities carried out by the Ministry of Justice should be further improved so that the whole population becomes aware of the importance of local democracy for the quality of their life.

54. It is certain that the accomplishments of the Republic of Azerbaijan are not the only criterion to be used for its acceptance to the Council of Europe as a member; however, it is beyond any doubt that the state of local democracy should play an important role in that decision. The commitment of the Parliament, the President and the Executive Power to constitute and develop the institution of local self-government in the Republic of Azerbaijan as instruments of democratisation, effective administration and decentralisation of power suggest optimism for the future. It is hoped that the acceptance of the Republic of Azerbaijan as member to the Council of Europe will also contribute to the democratisation of public life at local level. The Congress is ready to play its role towards this very important goal through an intense monitoring activity based on the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

APPENDIX I

REPORT
ON LOCAL ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN
held on 12 December 1999
_________

Rapporteur: Alan LLOYD (United Kingdom, L)

I. INTRODUCTION

1. Further to an invitation from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, a Congress Delegation observed local elections in this country on 12 December 1999 (cf. Appendix 1). As Congress’ Rapporteur on local democracy in Azerbaijan, Mr Alan LLOYD accompanied the Delegation in order to gather information on the prospects of local democracy, simultaneously taking due account of the electoral process. Mr Lloyd headed the CLRAE Delegation during the observation mission.

2. After giving some general information on the political situation, this report describes the observation of the above elections. Further to its adoption by the Congress’ Standing Committee, it should be transmitted to the Azerbaijani authorities. Later on, this report will be attached to a report on the prospects of local democracy in Azerbaijan which will be finalised by Mr LLOYD on making another visit to this country, from 9-12 March 2000. The CLRAE Bureau will adopt Mr Lloyd’s final report by next Spring in view of its communication to the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.

3. The International Relations Department of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) arranged the logistics, transport and interpretation of the observation mission of the CLRAE Delegation in co-operation with the President’s Administration. The CLRAE Delegation should like to warmly thank the above department and the President’s Administration for the exceptional welcome and the perfect organisation of the visit. The delegation was able to obtain information about the current electoral system and the run-up to the elections from a series of meetings arranged by the International Relations Department of the CEC (cf. Appendix 2), as well as from the observation of over 60 polling stations on the election day.

4. In particular, the delegation had meetings with the President of the Republic, the President of the Mili Mejlis (National Assembly), the President of the Central Electoral Commission, and other Azerbaijan authorities, as well as candidates and representatives of political parties, local and international observers. A meeting with Ambassadors of the Council of Europe member States was also arranged. During its visit to Azerbaijan, the CLRAE Delegation met a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly. A working dinner was arranged with Mr Georges CLERFAYT, Rapporteur of the Legal Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly. This dinner gave Mr LLOYD an opportunity to exchange views with Mr CLERFAYT on the situation in the country with a view to the forthcoming meetings of the CLRAE Delegation with Azerbaijan authorities.

II. GENERAL INFORMATION

5. The Republic of Azerbaijan became an independent state in 1991. It is located in the Trans-Caucasian region of the Caspian Sea. It has common borders with Armenia, Georgia, Iran, the Russian Federation and Turkey. The total population of Azerbaijan is around 7.8 million, 53% of which lives in urban areas. 83% of the ethnic population are Azeri, and the official language is Azerbaijani. Islam is the principle religion, respected by more than 80 % of the population7.

6. Per capita Gross National Product is 318.5 US Dollars. The main sources of wealth are oil, natural gas and mineral resources. The majority of the population remains poor by international standards. The economic reforms of Azerbaijan are supported by the IMF, IBRD and EBRD.
The Republic of Azerbaijan established diplomatic relations with 134 other countries following its independence from the former Union of the Socialist Soviets Republics. It is a member of 30 international and regional organisations and is a Party to 110 treaties8.

7. Since the establishment of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan, the country has experienced a number of political upheavals as two successively elected or acting Presidents were ousted in 1992 and in 1993. Another factor that is important for the political stability is the territorial conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, which has resulted in the deaths of over 20 000 people. More than 900 000 people are estimated to live as refugees of displaced persons as a result of that armed conflict. They are faced with a serious problem of integration into their present surroundings. All these economic, social and political factors make the development of a democratic society in Azerbaijan more difficult.

8. The Constitution of Azerbaijan was put into effect in 1995. The referendum took place on the same day as the first legislative elections since the declaration of independence in 1991. The Constitution introduced a strong presidential regime and established the foundations of a unitary, secular, democratic state based on the respect for the rule of law and the separation of powers. However, there are doubts as to what extent, in practice, the principle of the separation of powers will be respected as a constant source of inspiration for all institutions concerned9. In other words, it is assumed that the influence of the centralised features of the former regime upon the present one will persist for some time to come.

9. The National Assembly (Milli Majlis) consists of 125 deputies. The majority party, namely the New Azerbaijan Party, under the leadership of the present President of the Republic, occupies 53 seats in the Parliament. As the Head of the central executive power, the President of the Republic has a strong position in the political life. He has the authority to appoint the Prime Minister and the ministers and the members of the executive authorities at both central and local level. The power of the President to decide on holding referenda and parliamentary elections enhances his position in case of conflict between himself and the Parliament. As such he occupies a dominant position within the State both in law and in practice.

10. His role in the formation of the Central Electoral Commission is another example of his powerful position that might create significant consequences. The Law on the CEC stipulates that half of the Commission’s twenty-four members must be appointed by the Parliament and the rest by the President of the Republic. This formulation gives the incumbent President an apparent advantage particularly since the present Parliament is highly dominated by the political party of the President.

11. With this in mind, it should be observed that local authorities have never been elected in Azerbaijan but were appointed by the President of the Republic, representing the system of the central executive power at local level (“deconcentrated powers”). This is also true for the Governor of Baku who heads the "deconcentrated" City Administration, with 11 District Administrations being subordinated to it. The Governor will remain in office after municipal bodies are elected in all districts. The CLRAE Delegation was concerned about the future relationship between the local elected authorities and the locally acting central executive authorities. It stressed the importance to clarify these relationships in the future with a view to making a total distinction between responsibilities and functions of the bodies concerned.

12. There are now 2665 local entities in the country. This number had been reduced from 4500 as a result of the consultation carried out by central authorities a few months earlier. In accordance with the transitional provisions of the Constitution of Azerbaijan, the municipal elections were supposed to be held within 2 years from the date of the adoption of the Constitution, i.e. 12 November 1997, but they were postponed several times until the date of 12 December 1999 was established.

III. LEGAL FRAMEWORK

13. The main legislative texts on the local election process and local bodies are the Law on Rules for Municipal Elections and the Law on the Status of Municipalities.
These texts provide a good basis for the development of a genuine democratic and efficient local government system. However, as already mentioned, the question of the autonomy and accountability of local authorities and their relationship to the central authorities is not altogether clear. These aspects will be examined in the final report on local democracy in Azerbaijan.

14. It is worthwhile noting that just on the eve of the local elections, the Mili Mejlis (National Assembly) had passed two more laws:

- on Local Referendum
- on Municipal Services.

Besides these, there are several bills, which have been discussed by the National Assembly. During the visit of the CLRAE Delegation, three of them passed the second reading:

- Bill on Municipal Land;
- Bill on Local Finances;
- Bill on Municipal Property.

15. The delegation was informed that two more bills had been introduced to the National Assembly: on the Distribution of Competence between Municipalities and Local Executive Power Bodies and on the Status of Baku City.
Both bills are of particular interest to the delegation, as they could provide important guidelines on the future evolution of the system of ‘deconcentrated powers’ in the country. However, the delegation could not obtain copies of these bills during its visit, though it asked for them several times.

16. Chapters or articles on local self-government could also be found in the legal texts of the following laws:

- Land Code;
- Tax Code;
- Law on Agrarian Reform;
- Law on Property.

IV. THE LOCAL ELECTIONS PROCESS

1. The run-up period

17. According to official statistics, provided by the Central Election Commission (CEC), over 4.3 millions voters have been registered in the country. (The legislation allowed for the refugees and internal displaced persons to vote in the places of their temporary registration. In practice, the CLRAE Delegation did not have the opportunity to check if this legislation was implemented correctly during the electoral process). The voting was aimed at electing 21 087 members for 2 665 local councils10 (i.e. 2 665 municipalities). 26 political parties participated in the electoral process (cf. Appendix 3). For elections to be valid, a 25% or more turnout was requested.

18. In order to carry out the electoral process, the CEC set up 74 Territorial Electoral Committees (TECs) and 4 683 Precinct Electoral Commissions (PECs).
An Election Guide was circulated before the elections to all members of TECs and PECs. This text (also available in English) describes the role and responsibilities of electoral bodies, the opening of the procedures concerning the opening of polling stations, the voting process, the counting of the ballot papers, the report and the communication of the final results.

19. The CLRAE Delegation noted that approximately 18% of the members of the TECs belonged to political parties, over 30% to NGOs. The PECs comprised representatives of 21 political parties.
90 500 citizens were involved in organising the elections and more than 43 000 citizens asked the TECs to be registered as candidates. Nearly 51% of the above-mentioned citizens were independent and 49% were members of political parties. The CLRAE Delegation was informed that 35 600 citizens out of 43 000 were registered as candidates (their names were included on the ballot papers). It was reported to the CLRAE members that a large majority of these candidates belonged to the majority parties.

20. Observers from national NGOs, political parties and representatives of mass media took part in the electoral process. 27 865 observers of political parties and national NGOs were accredited by the CEC and got relevant ID cards.
33 observers from foreign countries and international organisations were also accredited (cf. Appendix 4).

21. Beside the CLRAE Delegation of the Council of Europe, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE), as well representatives of the Embassies of the United States of America and of Uzbekistan observed the elections. There were no observers from the OSCE.

22. During the meetings, Azerbaijani authorities stressed that all necessary conditions had been created for a broad participation of all political parties in the electoral process. The President of the Central Election Commission pointed out that the CEC had done a lot not only to establish territorial and precinct commissions and to train the staff but also to inform the population on the municipal elections through the mass media and special publications. According to the information provided by the CEC, more than thirty instructions had been prepared for the TECs and PECs and 300 000 copies of information brochures on municipal elections had been distributed among the population. Special courses on local elections had been organised for staff in co-operation with the IFES.

23. On the other hand, the electoral campaign on the part of the candidates and political parties was limited mainly to a few posters which the CLRAE Delegation saw on the walls of some buildings in the city. The interviews conducted by the CLARE members in the streets of Baku confirmed that, in central Baku, the population had been fairly well informed about the forthcoming municipal elections, though some lacked the necessary knowledge of their candidates and there were some problems with the information on the place of vote.

24. All the central authorities concerned claimed that all necessary conditions had been created for a broad political participation in the municipal elections. Nevertheless, there was a party – the National Independence Party – that expressed its intention to boycot the municipal elections. The Azerbaijani authorities did not seem willing to explain the real reasons of this boycott.

25. The CLRAE Delegation was surprised that the CEC did not report any particular problems concerning the electoral campaign. This was probably due to the fact that most of the candidates belonged to the majority parties.
When the CLRAE Delegation officially met representatives of political parties, very few complaints were reported. Taking into account the political climax normally existing before elections, the CLRAE Delegation concluded that the attitude showed by the above representatives was to some extent “ambiguous”.

26. According to the information provided by international observers, the National Independence Party was not the only party not taking part in the local elections. Other political parties had not even been registered. The CLRAE Delegation noted that the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan as such did not take part in the local elections, though it has six seats in the National Assembly.
The observers from the National Independence Party made it quite clear that the major reason for its boycott was a lack of confidence that the results of the elections would not be forged.

27. Some international observers met by the CLRAE Delegation before the polling day went so far as to claim that the results of the elections had been predetermined long before the election day. They lodged a number of complains as regards the pressure of the ruling majority on the opposition, obstacles created in the process of the registration of their candidates, discrimination in the press and electronic mass media, etc.

2. The Polling Day

28. On 12 December the delegation divided into five teams, two of which were deployed in Baku, the others in three regions North, West and South-West of Baku. Each team visited around ten polling stations and some TECs. Each team observed the polling and counting of the votes in one or two polling stations.

29. As a whole, polling took place smoothly and peacefully. The observers from different political parties (belonging to the majority and/or opposition, independent) and NGOs were present at many polling stations. The general climate was calm, open and friendly.
Nevertheless, a number of serious irregularities were observed :

· Unauthorised persons were present in the polling stations and behaved obtrusively with the work of the election officials and voters;
· A mismatch between signatures registered on the voting list and votes found in the ballot box;
· Ballot stuffing;
· Attempts to « mobilise » voting by PECs chairmen who seemed to think that such action was commendable
· Unauthorised use of the mobile voting box;
· Poor management of unused ballot papers;
· Some local observers had their activities hampered
· Addition of extra voters on the official list during the day of the election
· Polling stations were often not opened in time
· Electoral propaganda was displayed inside the polling stations
· Ballot paper manipulations during the polling
· Difficulties in the counting procedures
· Family voting
· Uncontrolled voting boxes

3. The day after the polling

30. The day after the polling the delegation met with the President of the CEC and its members and informed them about major results of the observation of the elections. It also met local and international observers. The conclusions of the local observers differed a lot depending on their party affiliation. The representatives of the ruling majority observed no serious irregularities and declared the elections fair and democratic in compliance with the law. Part of the opposition, especially the Mussovat Party and the National Independence Party and several associations, on the contrary, claimed that the elections could not be considered democratic and fair, referring to a great number of violations of the law and even forgeries, in particular as regards the quorum of voters. Both local and international observers noted a great number of irregularities during the polling day and the run-up to the election (see above).

31. After these meetings, on 13 December, on behalf of the CLRAE Delegation, Mr Lloyd made a press statement (see Appendix 5), which, inter alias, concluded that "by adopting a legislative basis for municipal elections, the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan have clearly indicated their will to go down the road of democratic reforms. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned for the future, in particular for the parliamentary elections in 2000. The future security and welfare of Azerbaijan depends on further improvements in the democratic process".
The CLRAE Delegation also confirmed its intention to prepare and distribute a report on the elections after the official results are published.

V. THE RESULTS OF THE ELECTIONS

32. After the elections, the CEC, International Relations Department, communicated to the Congress Secretariat the following general information:

- the elections were completed in 2 591 municipalities;
- 52.6% of 4 312 265 voters included to voter lists in the Republic participated in the voting process;
- municipalities were elected in 51 cities, in 8 districts in cities, in 123 towns and 2409 villages;
- the results were cancelled in 60 municipalities by decisions of the CEC of the Republic of Azerbaijan and some TECs because of serious infringes that could influence the results of voting and accounting processes (163 polling stations). The CLRAE Secretariat noted that this decision affected the following districts, cities, towns and villages:

    Narimanov, Tovuz, Oghuz and Shamakhi, Yasamal, Sabail, Bilasuvar, Gakh, Guba, Zagatala, Goychay, Saatli, Hajigabul, Shaki and Khachmaz and Adnali;

- the elections were not completed in 16 municipalities of some constituencies because of people's unsatisfactory participation.
- according to the Law "on the Rules of the Municipal Elections", new elections will be conducted in 76 municipalities11.
- 20 456 or 57.46 % of candidates were elected members of local councils.

33. Despite much activity for voter education, the CEC revealed that separate members of some election commissions were not well aware of the provisions of the Law on the Rules of Municipal Elections. This prevented this law from being implemented in the same way throughout the country.
The CEC proposed additional measures for the education and training of TECs members elected for a term of five years and was determined to organise special courses for election commission members together with the Public Administration Academy under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the future.

34. The Central Election Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan stated that considerations and faults pointed out by the observers of foreign countries and international organisations, especially representatives of the CLRAE, improved and will improve the activity of election commissions and help to eliminate faults in future works. This will be a strong factor for conducting the Parliamentary elections in 2000 on a democratic basis. One can observe that the cancellation of election results in some municipalities was decided by the CEC on the basis of the indications of the CLRAE Delegation.

35. On 11 January 2000, Mr Nizami Suleymanov, Chairman of the Independent Azerbaijan Party, addressed a letter, on behalf of 11 other political parties of Azerbaijan, to Mr Haller, Clerk of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, in which he denounced "(...) total falsification of municipal elections and non-consideration of the international organisations' [comments] concerning law on [the rules of] municipal elections (...)". On 4 February 2000, Mr Jafar Valyivev, Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, addressed to Mr Lloyd a letter presenting the final results of the elections and the statistics related to these results, notably referring to the participation of the political parties (cf Appendix 6).

VI. CONCLUSIONS

36. The Azerbaijani authorities viewed the first municipal elections in the country as a clear indication of their will to go on with the process of democratisation. There were extremely high expectations from them in terms of the acceleration of the process of accession of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe. One cannot deny that the holding of local elections is certainly a very important first step to institute local self-governments as an essential element of a democratic society.
However, there are other conditions to be met. Beyond the legal guarantees for their existence and operation, practical implementation of certain basic political rights and freedoms such as the freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly are vitally important.

37. An initial review of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and of the relevant legislation on local self-government seems to indicate that the Republic of Azerbaijan has made a serious effort during the last few years to incorporate a number of the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government and the European Convention on Human Rights in its domestic legislation. The very concept of local self-government and its scope, the protection of local authority boundaries, appropriate administrative structures of local authorities, working conditions of elected and appointed officials, administrative control and supervision, financial resources of municipalities, the right to associate and the legal protection of the institution of local self-government are regulated in the Constitution and in the respective laws with a reasonable degree of consistency with the democratic values reflected in the principles of the European Charter.
There seems to exist an apparent intention and a serious effort on the part of the National Parliament and the Executive organ of the State to rely on democratically constituted local authorities as instruments of democratisation, effective administration and the decentralisation of power.

38. With this in mind, the role of the President of the Republic as the head of the central executive power in his relationships with various organs of local authorities should not constitute a deterrent for strengthening local self-government. In other words, the scope, nature and limits of the control and supervision of the central executive power over municipalities must be clearly defined.
In this respect, the final assessment of the compatibility of local acts with national interests has to be left to the judiciary if genuine local democratic institutions are to be constituted.

39. More particularly, the administration of Baku as a metropolitan centre needs to be given special consideration. Suitable models for democratic and efficient management of a city with more than 2 million inhabitants like Baku are usually based on the principle of federation among smaller units forming the metropolitan area to ensure both democratic representation and efficient administration. Within this context, administrative, legal and political relationships between the governor of Baku (appointed by the President of the Republic) and the elected municipal councils and the appointed representatives of districts have to be clearly defined. At present, the governor of Baku is not accountable to any elected council locally. All these questions will be raised in detail in the political report which will be drafted after the second visit of the Rapporteur to Baku.

40. Further to the elections, the Statement to the press made by Mr LLOYD on behalf of the CLRAE delegation seemed to be disappointing to Azerbaijani authorities. Nevertheless, they took it with due understanding and stressed their desire to continue co-operation in the field of local government. They made it quite clear that much needs to be done in terms of education and training of both elected and appointed officials. In this context, the CLRAE Delegation recommends that a special education and training programme should be elaborated for them that could be run with the assistance of ENTO.

41. The CLRAE Delegation confirms that the report on local elections should be regarded as part of an ongoing process and that the final political report of the Congress would be drawn up taking into account all legislative and practical progress already achieved in the country.

OBSERVATION OF LOCAL ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN
12 DECEMBER 1999

CLRAE DELEGATION

Members

Mr Joseph BORG (Malta, R)
Dr Gerhard ENGEL (Germany, R)
M. Jean-Claude FRECON (France, L)
M. Alan LLOYD (United Kingom, L)
M. Guy MILCAMPS (Belgium, L)
M. Fabio PELLEGRINI (Italy, L)
Mr Sofocolis SOFOCLEOUS (Cyprus, L)
M. Riccardo VENTURINI (San Marin)

Expert

Prof. Rusen KELES (Turkish member of the Committee of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government)

Secretariat

Mr Riccardo PRIORE
Mr Ivan VOLODIN

      Programme of the CLRAE delegation’s visit
      to the Republic of Azerbaijan
      (9 – 13 December 1999)

9 December 1999, Thursday

11.00 Meeting with Mr. Mazahir Panakhov, Head of the

    International Department, Central Electoral Commission of the
    Republic of Azerbaijan (CEC)

15.00 Visit to Territorial Commission No 9 of Sabai District of Baku

    and meeting with its Chairman, Mr Shukur Alizade

    Visit to Polling station No 4 and meeting with Chairman and members
    of a Precinct Commission

17.00 Interviews with the electorate in the streets of Baku

19.00 Supper with Mr Georges Clerfayt, Mr Allard Plate and Heads of

    Departments of the President’s Administration

10 December 1999, Friday

11.00 Meeting with Mr. Ramiz Mehdiyev, Head of the President’s

    Administration and Mr Yusif Humbatov, Head of the Local
    Administration Department, and Heads of other Departments

13.00 Lunch at the Italian Embassy with the Ambassadors of the Council of

    Europe member states (Italy, Germany, Greece, France, Norway, and
    United Kingdom )

15.00 Meeting with Mr. Rafael Allahverdieyev, Governor of Baku, and

    Senior Executive Officers of the City Administrations of Baku and
    Sumgait

17.00 Meeting with His Excellency Heydar Aliyev, President of the

    Republic of Azerbaijan

22.00 Supper with Mrs. Sudaba Hasanova, Minister of Justice of the

    Republic of Azerbaijan

11 December 1999, Saturday

10.00 Meeting with Mr Jafar Valiyev, Chairman of the Central Electoral

    Commission (CEC), and members of the Commission

11.30 Meeting with the representatives of Territorial Electoral Commissions

15.00 Meeting with Mr. Murtuz Aleskerov, Speaker of Milli Mejlis (Parliament) of the Republic of Azerbaijan

    Meeting with Mr. Zahir Garasov, Chairman, and members of the
    Commission on Local Administration (majority and opposition) of
    Milli Mejlis

    Meeting with candidates to municipalities from all parties concerned +
    independent candidates (30-35 persons)

18.00 Meetings at the Central Electoral Commission with:

      - mass media representatives
      - other international observers (US Embassy, National Democratic Institute, International Federation for Electoral Systems, and IRI)

12 December 1999, Sunday

5.00 – 2.00 December 13

          Observation of municipal elections

13 December 1999, Monday

11.00 Meeting with Mr Jafar Valiyev, Chairman, and members of the CEC

15.00 Meeting with local observers from political parties (majority and

    opposition)

      Meeting with international observers (see above) and
      Mr. Roger Thomas, Ambassador of the UK, and
      Mr. Alessandro Fallavollita, Ambassador of Italy

17.00 Meeting of Prof. Keles with Mr Ecvet Tezcan, Ambassador of

    Turkey

20.00 Supper with Mr Jafar Valiyev, Chairman of CEC

LIST OF THE PARTIES NOMINATING THEIR CANDIDATES
TO MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

New Azerbaijan Party
Azerbaijan National Independence Party
Musavat Party
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party
Azerbaijan Democratic Independence Party
Azerbaijan Communist Party
Azerbaijan Socail-Democratic Party
"Ana Vatan" Party
Independent Azerbaijan Party
Azerbaijan Social Welfare Party
Azerbaijan Compatriot's Party
Azerbaijan Democratic Owner's Party
Azerbaijan Unity Party
Citizens' Solidarity Party
National Congress Party
Azerbaijan Republicans' Party
Azerbaijan Peasant's Party
Azerbaijan National Statehood Party
Azerbaijan Common Communist Party
Azerbaijan Liberal-Democratic Party
Azerbaijan Democratic Enlightenment Party
Azerbaijan Popular Party
Social-Justice Party
Azerbaijan Liberal Party
Azerbaijan Popular Democratic Party
Common Azerbaijan National Unity Party

LIST OF INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS
PARTICIPATING IN THE MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
IN THE REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN

Council of Europe : Alan LLOYD

            Guy MILCAMPS
            Joseph BORG

              Gerhard ENGEL
              Jean-Claude FRECON
              Fabio PELLEGRINI
              Sofoclis SOFOCLEOUS
              Riccardo VENTURINI
              Rusen KELES
              Riccardo PRIORE
              Ivan VOLODINE

IFES : Şehla MAHMUDOVA

              Feride BABAYEVA
              Afiq CAHANGIROV
              Michael SVETLIC
              Alan WALL
              Roger THOMAS

IRI, BRI : John ALVIS

            Emin ABDULLAYEV

USA Embassy : Azad DAŞDEMIR

              Sherri HOLLIDAY
              Craig DICKER
              Crystal ERWIN

Anadolu Ajansi : Muterem ERKUL

            Cağ Aksel ATAY

NDI : Peter Van PRAAGH

              Mehriban MAMMADOVA
              Cara ABERCROMBIE
              Minaya SAFAROVA

Ambassador of Uzbekistan : Abduraxmanov Abdugafur Sattarovic

I.
Information Note
Council of Europe Press Service
Ref: in57a99
Contact: Dmitri Marchenkov
Tel: +33/3 88 41 38 44
Fax:+33/3 88 41 27 89
pressunit @coe.int
internet: www.coe.fr

Local elections in Azerbaijan:
a step forward for local democracy, but irregularites prejudice the electoral process

STRASBOURG, 17.12.99 – Head of the CLRAE delegation to observe local elections in Azerbaijan Alan LLOYD (United Kingdom) has made the following statement on behalf of the delegation:

“The COUNCIL OF EUROPE’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE) observed the Municipal Elections in the Republic of Azerbaijan, which took place on 12 December 1999. The observation represents a part of the CLRAE’s report on the perspectives of local democracy in this country, in view of Azerbaijan's accession to the Council of Europe. The observation was done in co-ordination with other international observers.

The CLRAE delegation takes this opportunity to thank the Azerbaijan authorities for their warm hospitality and a very efficient organisation of the visit.

The delegation welcomes these elections because they represent a first step towards democracy at local level.

The following is a summary of the election observation:

The CLRAE visited around 60 polling stations. Although the general climate was calm, open and friendly, the delegation observed a number of serious irregularities, the nature of which could prejudice the electoral process.

The following are the main problems:
· Unauthorised persons were present in the polling stations and behaved obtrusively with the work of the election officials and voters;
· A mismatch between signatures registered on the voting list and votes found in the ballot box;
· Ballot stuffing;
· Unauthorised use of the mobile voting box;
· Poor management of unused ballot papers;
· Addition of extra voters on the official list during the day of the election

The CLRAE delegation believes that by adopting a legislative basis for municipal elections, the authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan have clearly indicated their will to go down the road of democratic reforms. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned for the future, in particular for the parliamentary elections in 2000. The future security and welfare of Azerbaijan depends on further improvements in the democratic process.The CLRAE will prepare and distribute a provisional report on the elections after the official results are published.”

To Mr. Alan Lloyd,
Head of the Delegation
of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
of Europe that observed the Municipal Elections
in the Republic of Azerbaijan

Dear Mr. Lloyd,

We have already informed the relevant governmental bodies on your expected visit to Azerbaijan on March 2000, your intention to meet with the representatives of Central Authority in Baku and wish to get some draft laws.

I send you the final returns of the Municipal Elections (Annex 1). I would like to mention that these returns concern the Elections held on December 12. As you know, by-elections were appointed in some municipalities with a decision by the CEC.

In addition to the primary results of the Elections that were sent to you, I would like to inform that 26 of political parties functioning in Azerbaijan took part in these Elections. In reality elections were not boycotted by any party. Even hundreds of members of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (ANIP) that stated to boycott the elections, participated in the elections beginning from the formation of the lottery commissions to the nominating candidates for municipalities and 83 of them were elected to the municipalities. It is also transparently indicated on the forwarded statistics (Annex 2) on the results of the participation of the political parties in the elections.

As regards the formation of Territorial and Precinct Election Commissions (TEC and PEC) in pre-election period, remarks by political parties concerning with decisions and measures by TECs and PECs, as well as infringes in voting and counting in the Election Day, it should be noted that CEC accepted a number of statements, appeals, complaints from some parties, public unions and their local branches.

The CEC operatively discussed those appeals and complaints. A part of them were forwarded to relevant TECs and law-protection bodies for investigation.

The CEC members and officials of the CEC Apparatus closely took part in the investigations of appeals and complaints. They were on missions to more than 60 cities and regions of the Republic to this end.

A number of leaders of political parties and public unions were received by the heads and members of the CEC, as well as officials of the CEC Apparatus in connection with election issues.
The results of investigations were discussed in the meetings of the CEC or TECs and relevant decisions were adopted. At the result of these, the results of lottery for the formation of TECs in Yasamal constituency # 4 (Baku City) and Shaki constituency # 20, and some PECs in constituencies Azizbayov # 3, Surakhani # 10 in Baku City, Kapaz # 12 and Nizami #13 in Ganja City, Gazakh # 32 were canceled and the personnel were re-formed.

Besides it, as we informed you, the elections to municipalities of Narimanov District in Baku City, Oghuz, Tovuz and Shamakhi Cities, some villages and towns in Balakan, Bilasuvar, Gakh, Guba, Zagatala, Goychay, Lankaran, Masalli, Saatli, Sabirabad, Salyan, Hajigabul, Shaki, Xachmaz and some other districts, were not completed or invalidated because of infringes.

Generally, the CEC appointed by-elections to 76 municipalities (includes 178 polling stations) in 26 election territories on March 26, 2000 according to the CEC legislation because of incomplete Municipal Elections or infringes that can influence the election returns.

Distinguished Mr. Lloyd, on behalf of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan I express my gratitude to you for your sincere wish and concern about development of election democratization in our country.

Kind regards,

Jafar Valiyev
The Chairman
of the Central Election Commission
of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Annex 2

The information on party membership
of the citizens elected on December 12, 1999
to municipalities within the election territories
of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Names and numbers
of election territories

    Number of persons elected
    to the municipality

New Azerbaijan Party

Azerbaijan Popular Front Party

Musavat Party

Azerbaijan Social-Welfare Party

"Ana Vatan" Party

Azerbaijan Republicans' Party

Azerbaijan Popular Party

Azerbaijan Communist Party

Citizens' Solidarity Party

Azerbaijan National Independence Party

Azerbaijan Democratic Owner's Party

Azerbaijan Liberal Party

Azerbaijan Popular Democratic Party

Azerbaijan Peasant's Party

Common Azerbaijan National Union Party

Independent Azerbaijan Party

Azerbaijan Compatriot's Party

Azerbaijan National Statehood Party

Azerbaijan Democratic Independence Party

Azerbaijan Democratic Enlightenment Party

Azerbaijan Social-Democratic Party

Social-Justice Party

National Congress Party

Union Party

Azerbaijan Liberal-Democratic Party

Azerbaijan Common Communist Party

I m p a r t I a l

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

Binagadi Election Territory # 1

62

13

5

2

0

0

1

2

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

36

Garadagh Election Territory # 2

101

35

4

2

7

4

3

2

0

17

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

18

9

Azizbayov Election Territory # 3

118

11

2

4

5

1

2

2

0

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

89

Yasamal Election Territory # 4

19

6

1

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

Narimanov Election Territory # 5 *

                                                     

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

Nasimi Election Territory # 6

19

2

0

2

1

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

12

Nizami Election Territory # 7

32

19

2

3

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

Sabunchu Election Territory # 8 **

104

25

5

11

3

2

1

0

2

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

0

49

Sabail Election Territory # 9

39

4

6

1

1

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

23

Surakhani Election Territory # 10

84

73

3

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

5

Khatai Election Territory # 11

30

7

3

3

1

1

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

13

Kapaz Election Territory # 12

28

13

4

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

Nizami Election Territory # 13

19

10

4

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

Sumgayit Election Territory # 14

45

4

2

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

36

Ali-Bayramli Election Territory # 15

26

11

4

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

9

Yevlakh Election Territory # 16 **

271

81

7

3

6

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

172

Lankaran Election Territory # 17

554

156

11

7

6

1

0

0

3

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

368

Mingachevir Election Territory # 18

19

6

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

9

Shaki Election Territory # 20

524

327

10

25

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

6

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

2

150

Absheron Election Territory # 21

147

21

5

1

0

0

1

1

0

2

1

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

110

Aghdam Election Territory # 22

80

54

2

7

1

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

11

Aghdash Election Territory # 23 **

421

60

13

15

9

18

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

303

Aghstafa Election Territory # 24

217

54

18

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

140

Aghsu Election Territory # 25 **

398

304

6

4

0

0

2

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

79

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

Aghjabadi Election Territory # 26

392

331

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

56

Astara Election Territory # 27

376

154

9

4

0

0

0

0

0

2

6

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

199

Balakan Election Territory # 28 **

186

55

16

9

3

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

101

Beylagan Election Territory # 29

348

153

9

37

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

13

0

0

0

132

Barda Election Territory # 30

762

371

23

11

9

28

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

318

Bilasuvar Election Territory # 31 **

207

88

24

15

7

0

0

0

3

0

3

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

64

Gazakh Election Territory # 32 **

197

96

24

8

6

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

60

Gakh Election Territory # 33 **

324

117

2

41

49

0

0

0

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

112

Gabala Election Territory # 34

413

278

23

18

11

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

82

Gobustan Election Territory # 35

194

75

8

4

15

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

92

Guba Election Territory # 36 **

732

282

11

13

5

2

8

0

0

0

3

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

407

Gusar Election Territory # 38

496

137

0

0

0

6

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

352

Dashkasan Election Territory # 39

210

40

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

170

Davachi Election Territory # 40

233

114

22

15

4

0

6

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

71

Zagatala Election Territory # 41 **

255

114

3

27

8

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

102

Zardab Election Territory # 43

313

79

12

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

217

Imishli Election Territory # 44 **

412

97

19

28

1

11

1

1

2

0

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

9

0

0

0

238

Ismayilli Election Territory # 45

411

301

13

4

0

7

0

0

0

0

6

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

78

Yardimli Election Territory # 46

424

110

24

11

0

0

0

0

0

30

1

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

0

0

0

0

240

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

Kurdamir Election Territory # 48

463

151

18

5

4

0

0

0

0

0

7

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

278

Gadabay Election Territory # 49

392

82

19

13

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

274

Goranboy-Naftalan Election Territory # 50

437

262

4

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

170

Goychay Election Territory # 51 **

325

204

15

13

25

0

0

0

0

0

5

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

59

Lerik Election Territory # 53 **

586

197

12

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

5

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

368

Masalli Election Territory # 54 **

795

249

51

35

0

1

0

1

4

3

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

0

0

2

0

0

445

Neftchala Election Territory # 55

231

150

34

6

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

39

Oghuz Election Territory # 56 **

218

49

7

17

1

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

139

Saatli Election Territory # 57 **

313

97

31

12

0

2

2

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

167

Sabirabad Election Territory # 58 **

531

63

31

47

3

0

0

11

3

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

367

Salyan Election Territory # 59 **

355

167

45

10

14

4

0

0

0

1

3

0

0

0

0

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

107

Samukh Election Territory # 60

277

102

6

3

2

6

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

154

Siyazan Election Territory # 61

102

21

3

5

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

71

Tartar Election Territory # 62 **

359

161

5

28

1

12

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

149

Tovuz Election Territory # 63 **

421

107

5

4

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

297

Ujar Election Territory # 64

227

64

11

6

9

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

0

0

0

1

0

0

130

Fuzuli Election Territory # 65

162

73

0

20

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

69

Khanlar Election Territory # 66

234

38

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

195

Khachmaz Election Territory # 67 **

490

127

2

12

16

12

24

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

295

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

Khizi Election Territory # 68

82

36

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

44

Hajigabul Election Territory # 71 **

171

123

12

2

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

31

Jalilabad Election Territory # 73 **

838

228

25

4

35

6

0

0

3

0

3

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

533

Shamakhi Election Territory # 74 **

350

269

3

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

72

Shamkir Election Territory # 75 **

476

365

10

7

0

0

0

0

1

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

87

Nakhchivan Election Territory # 77

17

7

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

Babak Election Territory # 78

313

61

10

1

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

237

Ordubad Election Territory # 79

137

52

10

0

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

72

Sadarak Election Territory # 80

20

18

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Julfa Election Territory # 81

181

137

3

2

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

36

Shahbuz Election Territory # 82

175

67

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

107

Sharur Election Territory # 83

534

290

19

9

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

213

T o t a l :

20454

8305

754

618

285

140

60

25

29

64

83

27

6

0

7

0

10

1

0

3

8

10

2

23

15

1

27

9951

* By-elections were appointed on March 26, 2000 in all election territories in which the election returns were canceled.
** By-elections were appointed on March 26, 2000 in some municipalities with incomplete or invalidated elections
in the election territories.
J. Valiyev

Chairman
of the Central Election Commission
of the Republic of Azerbaijan

APPENDIX II

REPORT BY THE CLRAE OBSERVATION DELEGATION
OF THE PARTIAL LOCAL ELECTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN
HELD ON 26 MARCH 2000

Rapporteur: Guy MILCAMPS (Belgium, L)

_______

I. Introduction

Responding to an official invitation by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan to observe partial local elections on 26 March 2000, a CLRAE delegation went to Azerbaijan from 24 to 28 March. The delegation comprised:

Mr Jean-Claude FRECON, Head of the delegation (France, L)
Mr Joseph BORG (Malta, R)
Mr Guy MILCAMPS, Co-Rapporteur on local democracy (Belgium, L)
Mr Fabio PELLEGRINI (Italy, L)
Mr Rusen KELES, expert (University of Ankara, Turkey)

The delegation was accompanied by the CLRAE Secretariat, Mr Ivan VOLODIN.

A report on the observation of the partial local elections held on 26 March in Azerbaijan will be finalised after the official results of the elections have been published.12 It will then be incorporated in a political report on local democracy in the Republic of Azerbaijan that will be presented to the CLRAE Bureau.

II. Programme of the visit

International Relations Department of the Central Election Commission (CEC) arranged logistics, transport, hotel and interpretation.

The programme included a number of meetings with the Presidents and members of the CEC, Territorial and Precinct Election Commissions, as well as with candidates, international and domestic observers. (see Annex I). Following the observation, a press conference was arranged on 27 March, at which Mr Jean-Claude FRECON, Head of the CLRAE delegation, made a statement (see Information Note).

III. Background information

The second round of local elections was held in the Narimanov district of Baku and 74 municipalities of the country, where the results of the first nation-wide local elections held on 12 December last had been cancelled by the CEC because of the serious violations of the law or where the elections had not been completed due to a low voters' turnout.

The delegation was informed by Mr Valyev, President of the CEC, that following the cancellation of the results in the municipalities concerned, new Territorial and Precinct Election Commissions had been set up, with many new Presidents and members chosen to them. Members of both TECs and PECs had been chosen by means of a lottery from among the candidates put forward by political parties and public associations.

The candidates to the municipalities had also to be nominated anew. 13 political parties had nominated their candidates for the second round of the local elections in the Nrimanov district of Baku and 74 municipalities. In some municipalities, all of the candidates standing for the election were independent.

Mr Valyev stressed that the CEC had taken due account of the remarks made by the previous CLRAE observation mission. All the necessary measures had been undertaken to ensure strict compliance of the electoral process with the law during the run-up and polling. Special meetings and seminars had been organised to discuss with commissions’ members the irregularities observed during the last municipal elections. At a meeting with the President of the Republic, Mr Heydar Alyev, the chiefs of the executives bodies had been warned against any interference into the electoral process. Simultaneously, they had been asked to provide all the necessary technical assistance to commissions’ activities.

In the run-up to the elections, the delegation visited the headquarters of a TEC and two PECS and met their newly chosen Presidents, who seemed to be committed to act in accordance with the law. The meetings with a few international (there were only two observers from the International Foundation for Election Systems) and domestic observers, as well as with almost all of the candidates in the Narimanov district, revealed no complaints from any side. All of them seemed to have been quite satisfied with the way how the issues of electoral process had been dealt with, starting from the establishment of the election commissions, the nomination of the candidates and winding up with their registration. Some of the candidates and observers related their positive experience in dealing with the new TEC and some PECs in the Narimanov district. They pointed out that the administration of the electoral process had been fair and impartial, no restriction had been placed on citizens wishing to take part in the election as a candidate or a voter, and freedom of movement, assembly, association and expression had been respected.

Nevertheless, the candidates confirmed our feeling that little had really been done to inform the voters about new candidates’ views in the run-up period: except small posters on the walls of many polling stations, which turned to be candidates’ biographical sketches, there were no other signs of an electoral campaign. None of the candidates interviewed could have boasted of using mass media or spreading their own information materials. Nor had they been very active in establishing contacts with their voters.

IV. Election Day

On 26 March, the delegation, divided into three groups, visited over 50 polling stations in the Narimanov District of Baku and the Southern and Western areas of the country. On the whole the polling stations were open from 8.00 a.m. to 8 00 p.m., thought some of them were late to start the work in the morning. The general atmosphere on the whole was calm and even festive in some polling stations located in the rural areas.

The delegation found a significant improvement in the voting and counting procedures in comparison with the first nation-wide local elections December last. Precinct Election

Commissions performed much better and could control the situation in the polling stations. In many cases, there was a PEC member at the entrance of many polling stations, greeting and directing the voters. Representatives of the CEC and/or TECs were present in many polling stations, ready to provide, if necessary, assistance to PEC members in dealing with any problem during polling.

Nevertheless, the delegation noted a number of shortcomings, which were brought to the attention of the authorities concerned. They concerned first of all the following areas:

- secrecy of the vote could not always be guaranteed because of the poor isolation of the voting booths. However, progress could be noticed in some polling stations where thick partitions had been installed;
- voting booths were very often poorly lit and had too small tables to allow the voters read the ballot papers comfortably;
- family voting seemed to persist, which was reflected in quite a few identical signatures added to the voters lists in some polling stations;
- use of the mobile ballot boxes still raised some questions, though this time they were used rare enough.

V. Results of the election

Though the official results were still not available, the CEC informed the CLRAE delegation that the quorum had been reached in all of 74 municipalities, except the Narimanov district of Baku. This implies that local councils have been elected in 74 municipalities, while the election in Baku had to be repeated.

VI. Conclusions

The CLRAE delegation visited on 26 March 2000 over 50 polling stations in Baku, the Western and Southern areas of the country

The Delegation found the elections well organised and satisfactory and commended the CEC and the subordinate TECs and PECs for the work done to administer the electoral process in the municipalities concerned

The population in the municipalities concerned has been given the political freedom to elect their local bodies and it has used it in all of them, except the Narimanov district of Baku.
.
The CLRAE delegation noted a considerable improvement in the voting and counting procedures, as compared with the elections on 12 December last. However, there has been a clear lack of efforts both on the part of mass media and the candidates themselves to inform the voters about the electoral process.

The delegation noticed a number of shortcomings and irregularities, which should be improved for the forthcoming elections.

VII. Recommendations

According to the current legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan, persons who cannot come to the polling station on Election Day due to ill health or for some other valid reason have the right to vote by using the mobile ballot box. Persons wishing to vote by the mobile ballot box must make a written request to the PEC at least 24 hours before Election Day. In practice, this is not always the case, and PEC members very often act on oral requests which could come even on Election Day. Given some difficulties for exercising an effective control over the voting by using the mobile ballot box, there still exist possibilities for frauds.

The delegation suggested that possibilities for amending the electoral law be examined to repeal the voting by use of the mobile ballot box. A system of vote by correspondence, beforehand, could solve the problem of the people who for a variety of valid reasons may not be able to come to the polling station on Election Day.

Programme of CLRAE delegation’s visit
to the Republic of Azerbaijan
March 24-28, 2000

March 25, Saturday

10.00 Meeting with the President and members of the Central Election Commission (CEC)

11.00 Visits to the polling stations, Precinct and Territorial Election Commissions

13.00 Lunch

15.00 Meeting with the domestic and international observers

17.00 Meeting with candidates and representatives of political parties (including independents)

March 26, Sunday

6.30 Observation of the Municipal Elections

March 27, Monday

11.00 Meeting with the Chairman and members of the CEC

13.00 Lunch

15.00 Meeting with the international observers

17.00 Meeting with the domestic observers

20.00 Press conference

Statement of the Delegation of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on partial local elections in Azerbaijan

STRASBOURG, 30.03.2000 – Following partial local elections in Azerbaijan, Jean-Claude FRECON (France, L), Head of the delegation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE), has issued the following statement:

“On 26 March 2000, a CLRAE delegation observed the partial local elections in the Narimanov district of Baku and 74 other municipalities of the Republic of Azerbaijan. These elections were organised by the Central Election Commission following the cancellation of the results of the local elections (held on 12 December 1999) in the district and municipalities concerned.

The CLRAE delegation, which comprised six members, observed the voting and counting process in about 50 polling stations in Baku, the Western and Southern areas of the country. The delegation welcomes that the quorum has been reached in all the 74 municipalities concerned, except the Narimanov district.

The CLRAE delegation notes a remarkable improvement in the voting and counting procedures compared with the local elections of 12 December last, and commends the responsible authorities.

Nevertheless, some irregularities have been observed, relating to technical and other more specific aspects. Referring to the latter, the delegation noted some problems (concerning in particular the Narimanov district) relating to the issue of signatures on the voters lists. More particularly, in some polling stations signatures seemed to have been added to the voters lists by non authorised people.

The delegation is convinced that the holding of local elections represents an important step towards the establishment of a democratic system in the Republic of Azerbaijan. At the same time, the delegation wishes to underline that local elections constitute just a prerequisite of the setting up of a full-fledged system of local self-government.

The CLARE is ready to follow the process of the establishment of this system so that local authorities can be granted appropriate responsibilities and adequate financial resources.

A report on this issue will be finalised by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in due course.”

Members of the CLRAE delegation:
Mr Jean-Claude FRECON, Head of the delegation (France, L)
Mr Joseph BORG (Malta, R)
Mr Guy MILCAMPS, Co-rapporteur on local democracy in Azerbaijan (Belgium, L)
Mr Fabio PELLEGRINI (Italy, L)
Mr Rusen KELES, expert (University of Ankara, Turkey)
Mr Ivan VOLODIN, CLRAE Secretariat.

1 In particular, meetings were organised with Mr Ramiz MEDHIYEV, Head of the President’s Administration, Mr Yusif HUMABTOV, Head of the Local Administration Department of the President’s Administration, Mr Shahim M. ALIYEV, Director of the Department of Legislation and legal Expertise of the President Administration, Mr Fouad ALESKEROV, Chief of the State Law Department of the President Administration, Mr Ali KERIMOV, Member of Parliament (MP), First deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Mr Rafael ALLAHVERDIEV, MP, Head of the Executive Power of Baku City, Mr Eldaniz LAHIDJEV, First Deputy Head of the Baku City Administration, Mr Isa GAMBAR, Chairman of the Musavat Party, Mr Murtuz ALESKEROV, Speaker of the Parliament (Milli Mejlis), Mrs Sudaba HASANOVA, Minister of Justice, Mr ASLANOV, Deputy Head of the Yasamal District (Executive Power) of Baku city, Mr Ilgar ALIYEV, Mayor of Yasamal District of Baku and Mrs Rustamova TAMELLA, municipal Councillor of the Yasamal District of Baku.

2 Azerbaijan Human Development Report 1996 prepared for Habitat II.

3 Report on the Conformity of the Legal Order of Azerbaijan with Council of Europe Standards by R.Bernhardt and M.A.Nowicki, AS/Bor/Azerbaijan, 1997/1

4
Report on the Conformity of the Legal Order of Azerbaijan with Council of Europe Standards by Bernhardt and Nowicki, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 1997)

5 > NB: published on 28 July 1999 (the revised unofficial translation in English examined by the Rapporteurs is dated 18 October 1999)

6 Published on 28 July 1999

7 Azerbaijan Human Development Report 1996 prepared for Habitat II.

8 Report on the Conformity of the Legal Order of Azerbaijan with Council of Europe Standards by R.Bernhardt and M.A.Nowicki, AS/Bor/Azerbaijan, 1997/1

9
Report on the Conformity of the Legal Order of Azerbaijan with Council of Europe Standards by Bernhardt and Nowicki, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 1997)

10 Mayors will be elected by the local councils

11 New elections will take place on 26 March 2000. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan invited the CLRAE to send a delegation to observe them.

12 The Provisional Report will be sent to the members of the CLRAE delegation for their approval.



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