Azerbaijan Ignored Several Remarks by Venice Commission –Azerbaijani Presidential Administration

Azerbaijan Ignored Several Remarks by Venice Commission –Azerbaijani Presidential Administration

Azerbaijan, Baku, 11 June / Trend corr E. Babayev/ Trend ' interview with Ali Hasanov, a department head at the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration.

Question: There is no unambiguous view on the situation in Azerbaijan on the threshold of presidential elections. Azerbaijani opposition is discontented with the situation. How do the authorities assess the situation in this aspect?

Answer: The situation in Azerbaijan, on threshold of elections, is the same as it is in other countries several months before elections. In fact, there is no ground for concern. As we know, last week the Parliament passed a Bill on Changes and Supplements into the Election Code. Now, election institutions are making some changes in their activities. Election campaign period has been reduced and that will require some corrections in the activities of election institutions. Definite steps are being taken in this connection. Political parties are already stating who will participate in the elections. We also know who will not. Some are hesitating, and we understand that as well. Parties are going to hold their pre-election congresses and several have already held them and divulged the names of their candidates. Media is also already discussing about the elections. How else pre-election situation must be?

Question: Out of all supplements and changes made into the Election Code, opposition is most of all concerned about reduction of election campaign period from 120 to 75 days. Was it really necessary?

Answer: Elections in Azerbaijan have been brought in conformity with the world practice. In most of the countries, election campaign are held compactly and shortly in order not to divert people from their important affairs, daily life. In many countries, election campaigns are held within two or three months or even in a less period. It should be taken into account that elections are held thrice in every five years (municipal, presidential, parliamentary). Plus elections to the vacated positions. It would be a catastrophe to hold elections campaign for four months. Putting aside their works, people would have to allocate four months to the elections each time. Therefore, we consider the suggestion of reducing the period of elections positive from the point of view of world practice.  Indeed, this issue was not described in the proposals of Presidential Administration. This suggestion was highlighted in the Parliament. We appreciate this suggestion and consider that it is necessary to hold operative elections. There is nothing here bringing harms to the elections. It is a normal process and it is not so worth to be worried about. Reducing the period of the pre-election campaign fully creates conditions to hold democratic, transparent and fair elections, and it will be so.   

Question: What about the other change - liquidation deposit of candidates? The opposition considers that it will be difficult to collect 40,000 signatures in ten days, and from this point of view, the deposit contribution should be kept as a condition for candidates who can not collect signatures. 

Answer: To my knowledge, liquidating the deposit is assessed as a positive process. As deposit is not suitable for the presidential candidate, and it would be better if the candidate gets in touch with the people and collects signatures of population.  

Question: How does the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe approaches the additions and amendments into the Election Code? Some people state that the remarks of the Venice Commission were not taken into consideration...

Answer: Naturally several differences should exist. Several remarks of the Venice Commission were taken into consideration and several were not taken. A part of issues was not settled. For instance, with regards to formation of election commissions, the Venice Commission stated that this issue should be carried out with the consent of political parties. As a Government, we tried to pursue it. Several months ago, we held a special meeting in this regard. We collected all political parties in this meeting to come to a common agreement, and later, it would be possible to add them into the Election Code. However, unfortunately, each party has its own view. It was very difficult to take into consideration such number of views. Therefore, it was a failure to come to a single opinion with the Venice Commission in this regard. Now, they think that it can be realized in a different way. But in what way? We think that the best way is parity - parliament majority, minority and neutral MPs. At the moment, this parity reflects the real political palette of Azerbaijan better. However, the Opposition understands the parity in its own way. The Opposition says that the parity should be between the Government and Opposition. Though this proposal is not criticized, it still does not meet any criteria. From this viewpoint, there is no full agreement on several issues regarding the Election Code. The major task is not to be in sympathy with the Venice Commission. Our and Venice Commission's goal is to achieve fair, transparent elections and to justify the confidence of the people.

Question: Can the supplements and changes into the Election Code harm democratic elections as a whole? Now the Opposition has formed an opinion that their opportunities are restricted.

Answer: What does the Opposition mean? The Opposition demands to allot a 4-months air time for them to pull the wool over peoples' eyes. If they assess it as a sign of democratic elections I agree with them, as the supplements and changes hinder them doing so. In fact, the supplement and changes help to hold elections more democratically and in line with the international standards. There is no basis to fear or step aside.

Question: Does the government plan to put an end to rumours on the election commissions?

Answer: We should put an end to rumours, and to make election commissions more professional by benefiting from the world experience. The election institutions are professional all over the world, that is, they are not involved in election process and they reflect the will of not political parties or interested parties, but the unified will of the country, people and single criteria which can be relied on - law. Therefore we should somehow make election commissions more professional and should make an election institution out of them, which will not be dependent on any political power.

The correspondent can be contacted at [email protected]

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