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International “Election Observers” Whitewash Fraudulent Referendum in Azerbaijan

(October 5, 2016)


Aleksandar Nikoloski, PACE Vice-president and leader of the fraudulent PACE observation mission to Azerbaijan. Foto:


On September 26, 2016 Azerbaijan held a hastily called, and controversial, referendum. The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) has monitored the conduct of international election observer missions. EPDE is highly critical to statements made by international election observers, which stand in sharp contrast to the critical assessment made by local independent citizens’ election observers. EPDE sees the statements as attempts at whitewashing an undemocratic and fraudulent Referendum.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Committee of Regions of the European Union, the notorious “European Academy for Election Observation” and a series of European politicians, among them Mario David and Manolis Kefalogiannis, members of the European Parliament, have issued overwhelmingly positive assessment of the referendum on amendments to the Constitution of Azerbaijan which will among others significantly increase the power of the President of the Republic. By that the observers stand in sharp contrast to findings of independent local citizens’ election observers. The assessment raises doubts over the impartiality, professionality and honesty of the international observers. By that they damage the reputation of the institutions and parliaments that they represent.

The PACE mission’s statement declares that “the voting process was transparent, well organised, efficient and peaceful throughout polling day, no serious violations were observed during the counting process” and concludes that the referendum “is considered legal and legitimate”. The assessment does not take into account the critical human rights situation in the country, the systematic restriction of independent mass media, political opposition and civil society activists that do not allow for an open and fair campaign environment in the country.

The findings and conclusion of the PACE short term observers stand in sharp contrast to the Venice Commission Opinion no 864/2016 (CDL-PI (2016) 010.  The preliminary opinion concludes, among several other critical points, that: “The  new powers of  the  President introduced  by  the  Draft are unprecedented even  in comparative  respect; they reduce  his  political  accountability  and  weaken Parliament  even further. The  Venice  Commission  is  particularly  worried  by  the  introduction  of  the  figure  of unelected Vice-Presidents, who may at some moment govern the country, and the President’s prerogative to declare early presidential elections at his/her convenience.”

EPDE calls on the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the national and regional parliaments which these observers claim to represent, to  consider if the activities of the elected representatives are in line with the ethical standards and codes of conduct of these parliaments. We also urge these parliaments to review  their rules and procedures  for participation in international election observation missions.

See the list of international observers who are responsible for biased assessments on the referendum in Azerbaijan here: PDF (EN)

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