Internet Press Conference with Anar Mammadli

Azerbaijani Presidential Elections 2013

David Stepanyan, "Arminfo" news (Armenia)
1.What are the Azerbaijani public’s expectations from the new and old President? Does it have any expectations at all?
-The level of real turnout showed that voter turnout in Azerbaijan has decreased tremendously. First, this is due to distrust in the electoral process as a functional democratic institution. Second, it is an indicator of the lack of any expectations in the country from Aliyev's government and the policies it implements.
2.The results of the presidential elections in Azerbaijan have traditionally been negatively evaluated by the Western community. Why is the West unhappy with Ilham Aliyev as president and is Russia happy with him in this position?
-Azerbaijan has very important geopolitical opportunities to ensure balanced politics in the region. Sometimes this fact helps Ilham Aliyev to skillfully maneuver between the superpowers. But we also have to distinguish between the geopolitical interests of Russia and the Western countries. Russia views Azerbaijan as an important and at the same time an undemocratic and corrupt country. In such circumstances, it is easy to push forward the policy led by the government. But Western countries prefer to consider Azerbaijan as a country of transit of oil and gas, and turn a blind eye to human rights violations. Unfortunately, Aliyev  is very good at taking advantage of such relationships.
3.After Armenia's decision on accession to the Customs Union, a number of Russian experts spoke about the fact that the only way for Azerbaijan to prevent the repeat of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian scenario with regard to Karabakh was Eurasian integration. How promising such a policy of gentle pressure on Baku is, after another validation for Ilham Heydarovich as President of AR?
-The third term in office will create many problems for Ilham Aliyev, and among them, the issue of the foreign policy of Azerbaijan will stand in the foreground. I do not have clear information on Ilham Aliyev’s intentions regarding the Eurasian Union. However, I have to say that it would be difficult to withdraw from participation in the Eastern Partnership. At the same time, I do not think that Russia will use the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to influence Aliyev’s decision. And finally now some pro-governmental analysts and politicians have started talking about the possible membership of Azerbaijan to the Customs Union. This shows that on the sidelines of the government there are proponents of this membership.
4.Should we expect any changes in Aliyev’s rhetoric against Armenia and Nagorno -Karabakh after October 9 or might it now be replaced by concrete actions?
-I watched the Ilham Aliyev’s pre-election speeches and did not hear any promises or plans for resolving the conflict. It seems that he will be applying the same style in the future, too.
Aydin Kerimov, "Novoye Vremya" (Azerbaijan)
1.In your opinion how much did the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan contribute to the fair elections of the President?
-Aydin Bey, I have already addressed this question .
2.Do you agree to OSCE ODIHR observation mission’s opinion that the elections our elections were not democratic?
-I fully support the position of the observation mission from the OSCE/ODIHR on the results of the latest election.
3.As is well known, the U.S. State Department also called these elections non-compliant with democracy. Do you think this means no recognition of the elections at all?
-Following the statement made by the U.S. State Department on the results of the election on October 9, Mr. Ramiz Mehdiyev, Head of Presidential Administration, was interviewed, and he criticized the U.S. Government for such a position. He noted that negotiations were held to determine the performance of the candidates, including the opposition candidate from the National Council of Democratic Forces. It seems that at present there are serious problems in the relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, I believe that the U.S. administration will continue to work with Ilham Aliyev’s government, not having congratulated it. Unfortunately, the protection of human rights and democracy is not yet a top priority for the United States’ interests in Azerbaijan.
4.Was the 5% vote gained by the candidate from the National Council real public support for the opposition or was this a result of fraud?
-I do not think that after the massive violations on the Election Day, it is appropriate to discuss candidates’ results announced by the Central Electoral Committee. Hence, I do not think the CEC figures are accurate and I would not advise you to consider them seriously.
Marina Martirosyan, "Hetq" online (Armenia)
-How would you evaluate the last presidential elections in Azerbaijan?
-As Chairman of the Center for Election Monitoring and Democracy Education, I can build on our long- and short-term monitoring results of the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan. The long-term monitoring, conducted by the CEMDE showed no improvement of freedom of assembly and association in the campaign period. Besides, and freedom of speech and freedom of action of the media was not secured either. On the contrary, since the beginning of 2013 the number of arrests and harassment cases on political motives has considerably increased. The initial stages of the electoral process - nomination and registration of candidates - were accompanied by the abuse of administrative resources by the authorities in certain governmental bodies. In some cases, the media, observers and candidates’ proxies were denied access to the process of verifying collected signatures. In the second phase of elections, there was a general political activity, if compared to the 2008 presidential election, however, none of the private television stations operating in the country offered airtime to the candidates or their proxies to present their election platforms or organized political debates on topical issues. According to the Electoral Code of Azerbaijan, public television and radio was the only media outlet to hold a debate with the participation of the candidates or their proxies. CEMDE noted several irregularities in terms of the opening of the polling stations on Election Day. Nevertheless, the voting process was marred by serious violations (multiple voting, bringing in voters to polling stations  in droves, allowing many voters to vote in polling stations not covering the constituencies they were registered in, and so on). According to the CEMDE observers’ reports, the voting results were not accurately reflected in the final report in over 200 polling stations, and the copies of the minutes were not posted in front of the building. Along with candidates’ proxies, the observers, who demanded normal conditions to be ensured to observe the counting process, were encountering serious pressures from polling station administrations. CEMDE believes that the political situation before the elections and the violations documented in all the stages of the elections led to a lack of fair competition. Therefore, the presidential election held on October 9 was marred by the violation of both the national legislation of Azerbaijan and international standards, hence it cannot be considered free and democratic.
Emil Babayan, correspondent in Armenia, "Regnum" news agency,  
1.Good evening, Anar. The Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Baku in August was regarded by many observers as an expression of support for Aliyev, as well as an attempt at warming the chilly relations between Moscow and Baku. The parties reached a number of agreements on cooperation in various fields. How, in your opinion, will this round of warming develop after the presidential election?
-Good evening, Emil! I think that we do not know about the details of the negotiations Aliyev and Putin. However, after the presidential election, immediately began a campaign of intimidation against the United States. I think it is no accident and we can expect some changes in the international situation in Azerbaijan in the coming time. Today the Minister of Defence issued a statement that he had a conversation with the U.S. Ambassador Richard Morningstar was recorded and how will the ambassador pointed to their cooperation with Ilham Aliyev after the election. This can be a cause for great diplomatic scandal and may affect relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.
2.Critics inclined to criticize (pardon me for this tautology) called the Azerbaijani elections a formal act of prolongation of Ilham Aliyev’s term in presidency. That is to say, all this was in fact, a meaningless activity, designed to put in a tick in the right place. Do you agree yo this statement? If not, why not?
-I think elections are very important for dialoguing and communicating with the voters . It is a pity that we do not have such an opportunity in the period between elections.
3.Usually after elections in the post-Soviet space there comes a period of minimal risk for the authorities, namely political lethargy, inaction, and so on. Can you predict a similar scenario in the case of Azerbaijan? In general, should any effective steps be expected from the leadership of the country in the domestic and regional policies?
-Unfortunately, I do not see any positive intentions in this regard.
Armen Minasyan, (Armenia)                 
1.What kind of violation of Election Monitoring Center and democracy training recorded during the elections? Can we say that they have affected the outcome of the vote? If so, what kaky least?
-I have already spoken on this issue.
2.In your opinion, what was the real turnout?
-According to our observations, the voter turnout was between 30-40 percent.
Natig Javadli, "Bizim Yol" (Azerbaijan)
1.After the October 9 elections there has been an increasing number of statements in the official press and the announcements made by Azerbaijani officials that the OSCE/ODIHR will not be invited in at the next election. If that happens, what will the attitude to Azerbaijan be? Can elections unobserved by  the OSCE/ODIHR can it be considered as election, and are they not in that case deprived of any legitimacy?
-ODIHR is the most popular and trusted institution in the European election-wise. Hence, the Azerbaijani authorities should not take risks with such steps and leave the country to the pressure applied by the EU and the OSCE. I take such statements as manifestations of populism .
2.What was the OSCE/ODIHR evaluation of the elections in Armenia? How different was it from the one on the elections in Azerbaijan on October 9?
-I think that overall the elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan were the same. The only difference in Aliyev's third presidencyterm . With this, Azerbaijan repeated the Belarus example.
3.Has the number of the so -called "stuffing" and "carousel voting" cases increased?
-Our observers noted serious irregularities in 91 percent of polling stations, and ballot stuffing was the major one of all.
Armen Minasyan, (Armenia)
1.What is your forecast for the post-election situation?
-I think that the major opposition parties will continue their struggle for the annulment of election results. However, there are maximal limitations to the legal possibilities for this, because of the lack of judicial independence in Azerbaijan. In such circumstances, the post-election campaign of the opposition will be focused on Aliyev’s legitimacy. Meanwhile, opposition forces are no longer in the difficult situation they used to be in on the eve of the elections. It should be noted that the current level of the relations within the Azerbaijani opposition gives them more opportunities for joint struggle in this direction. But I do have concerns that the government will continue to repress and persecute young activists, civil society leaders, and political activists.
2.How would you comment on the ODIHR and the U.S. State Department’s evaluations of the elections?
-I have already shared my opinion on the statement made by the OSCE/ODIHR. As for the position of the U.S. State Department, I have to say that the US State Department supports the position of the OSCE and confirms that the presidential elections are negatively evaluated by the U.S. administration. Thus, this position gives hope that in the coming years, democratization and human rights will be a priority in the US-Azerbaijani relations.
Rashad Rustamov, "Zerkalo" (Azerbaijan)
1.OSCE/ODIHR considered these elections non-compliant with international standards. What consequences may this have for Azerbaijan?
-This evaluation will be a major source on the legitimacy and quality of these elections and for the upcoming elections for Aliyev's another presidency term.
2.The elections were observed by the representatives of other international organizations. Their position was different from that of the OSCE. What, in your opinion, is the reason for this?
-Unfortunately , the members of the various groups – both the representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly –  supported the government and released non-professional statements on the outcomes of the election. They did not assess the quality of the electoral process. It is clear that they are members of various political groups and parties in their own countries, too, and they were not impartial. However, I must stress that these missions included people, involved in shadowy relationships with the incumbent government of Azerbaijan. We can get more information on these relationships through Caviar Diplomacy.
3.Non-compliance of the elections with the international standards was recognized by the U.S. State Department and the Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress. Could this somehow be reflected on the US-Azerbaijan relations?
-In my opinion, this is already reflecting on the relations between the two countries.
Taran Kyazimova, "Turan" news (Azerbaijan)
1.Did the presidential elections comply with the country’s legislation and international standards?
-Naturally, they did not!
2.Which were the major violations and offenses on that day?
-I have already addressed this issue.
3.Which were the major violations and offenses on that day?
-There were serious violations, such as multiple voting by individual voters, ballot stuffing and voting by voters not registered in the respective constituencies and so on; all this gives a firm ground not to regard these elections as legitimate.
4.What amendments does the electoral legislation in Azerbaijan need to improve? 
-The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe has put forth over 20 recommendations for the improvement of the Electoral Code. These recommendations are also supported by local NGOs and political parties. These recommendations relate to the composition of electoral commissions, 6the grievance procedure, the impartial and unbiased management of the electoral process and the campaign.
Marine Martirosyan, "Hetq" online ( Armenia)
1.Were any proceedings concerning electoral fraud instituted? Such cases were mentioned in the social networks and the statements made by the Presidential candidate from the oppositional coalition NCDF Jamil Hasanli.
-On October 13 CEC rejected the presidential candidate Jamil Hasanli’s appeal regarding violations in the vote on October 9 under the pretext that the documents submitted to the court were the copies, not the originals of the acts. At the same time, the law does not require the notarized copies of the acts of irregularities and protocols on the results of the vote. I think Hasanli may submit the original acts to the election headquarters and re-file the complaint by October 16. You can also file a complaint with the Court of Appeal on the decision of the CEC of the voting results, which must be approved by October 19. There will be enough time since the Constitutional Court shall, within 14 days after the election, approve the results.
2.The Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Committee, Senator Benjamin Cardin made critically evaluated the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. There were other similar evaluations by international forces and leaders. What impact, in your opinion, do such evaluations have on the international image of the President of Azerbaijan?
-Of course, this will have a negative impact on the reputation of the Government of Azerbaijan and Aliyev. It is obvious that the third term in office will be a major factor in understanding the democratic transition and the situation around human rights in Azerbaijan.


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