Head of OSCE Office in Baku: Anyway, 200, 500, 1000 people participate in the actions in Azerbaijan – INTERVIEW

Head of OSCE Office in Baku: Anyway, 200, 500, 1000 people participate in the actions in Azerbaijan – <font color=red> INTERVIEW </font>
# 11 May 2010 12:30 (UTC +04:00)
-Has OSCE prepared a plan of measures to hold free and fair parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan? Are you cooperating in this field with the European Union and Council of Europe?

-Yes, we are. We have joint views and plans with the European Union and Council of Europe. We have joint points and we are trying to coordinate our work. Our work is large scaled. But our activities will be mainly organized separately. We planned three roundtables, the first event on the interference in the election process has already been held. It was connected with holding independent, transparent elections. The second roundtable scheduled for May 18 concerns administrative points of the elections. The event scheduled for June will be devoted to media, freedom of media will be discussed at the event. We invite all 12 parties represented in the parliament. We also invite heads of NGOs, officials and diplomatic community. But these meetings are mainly meant for the representatives of the political parties, the others are a kind of observers. The first event was successful, the leaders of all political parties attended it, there was good dialogue, active discussions. I believe that other meetings will also continue in this way.

-Will any projects related to the voters be held in the regions?

-We will visit the regions, meet with the heads of local executive offices, chairmen of constituencies. We do this in all elections. Heads of all executive offices and chairmen of constituencies will attend these meetings. For holding transparent, free elections we will touch again on the problems that we faced before, answer questions. The representatives of the Presidential Administration and CEC also attend our meetings. We suppose that it will be so again. We will hold four meetings – first in Baku, then in Ganja, Shirvan and Nakhchivan. Moreover, there are awareness raising activities of the NGOs working with us in Baku and regions. They raise awareness of the voters. We raise awareness of the observers. There are party members and independent persons among the observers.

-Are you going to implement projects on the theme of election campaign in mass media?

-We want to organize some programs on television and radio. Debates can be held. We had done it before the local elections. We invite representatives of political parties, government to the debates and attend the debates ourselves, too. We want to offer opportunities to raise awareness of the people and so that the representatives of the political parties can express their position. This is one of the issues that we attach importance most.

-500 observers of OSCE attended the parliamentary elections in 2005. How many observers will there be this time?

-I can not say anything. First of all, OSCE should be invited for observation. Azerbaijan must send invitation. The number of the observers will be decided together with Azerbaijan. I suppose their number will be close to the number that you said. Much importance is attached to Azerbaijan. Everybody will want to observe as Azerbaijan is important from strategic aspect and its democratic development is significant. I do not think there will be few observers. The main activity of OSCE will be fulfilled by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). ODIHR will send short-term and long-term delegations during the elections. We should offer proper conditions for them. We will offer necessary assistance during the elections and work together with them. We will also have other activities. These are activities connected with the consideration of the Electoral Code, laws after the elections. Experts will be appealed concerning the necessity of the improvements in the Electoral Code, law on political parties. The work continues in this direction in the Venice Commission. We also want to support these activities. The issue of election is very important, we have already started these activities. We will continue our work during and after the election.

-How do you value the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan?

-There are election laws in the country. It needs to resolve some problems existed in the practice because it is new practice in Azerbaijan. Something could be successful, but something couldn’t as a result of this practice. A method, which was successful yesterday couldn’t be suitable today. It is a key factor to search ways for prevention of such concerns under the mutual understanding. But there are few problems. For example, they complain about the funding of political parties. The issue could be discussed. There is concern over the composition of electoral commissions. It should be 1/3, but it doesn’t need to change a law. The parties could reach understanding between themselves. The main question is about the implementation of the laws, for example, the issue of registration of candidates. There were some problems in this field during the municipal elections or complains about the local administrative bodies. The Central Election Commission addressed the issue and informed the government about it. Someone was punished. It is important to eliminate such problems. It needs just to implement the laws and to provide all candidates with equal air time. The leaders of ruling and opposition parties should get an opportunity to address the voters and to inform them about their programs. We are looking forward to see it during the next elections. A freedom of assembly is also very serious issue. The rules of elections campaign actions and meetings are implemented restrictedly. The laws are not wrong. The actions and meetings should be held under the secure circumstances. It is not easy, but it is possible to organize it. Anyway, actions are not so crowded in Azerbaijan. 200, 500, 100 people participate in the actions. We are discussing this issue. The government is expected to make positive steps toward this.

-Your office organized meetings between the government and opposition earlier. Will if use this practice in the pre-election period?

-Of course, the leaders of ruling and opposition parties come together during the round tables. There are opposition parties which oppose to each other. There are intensive discussions between them. We organized first round table and the second one is underway. We don’t invite the press to these discussions, but we inform the journalists about that. You can also agree that such discussions couldn’t be open for the press. We would like that the party representatives also get an air time to address the people for explanation of own position. We will carry out this project.

-Is the OSCE leadership expected to visit Azerbaijan before the elections?

-OSCE/ODIHR Vice Chairman attended the first meeting. The Chairman is also expected to join us, but I don’t know exactly. We invited the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic and she accepted the invitation. Azerbaijan could be one of the first countries she visits. We would like to establish close cooperation with the Press Council and a new project was elaborated for this. The OSCE is looking forward to develop its relations with the Press Council and other media representatives. This is our sustainable policy.