Generally speaking, the current election campaign in Azerbaijan is very calm, said the Head of the observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) Corien Jonker.
“The election campaign started in the country on March 19and it will last only 22 days. Now we can say that political campaigning is calm. We’ve already observed rallies both in Baku and in the regions. Most rallies are organized by the ruling party, but our long-term observers in the regions have also noted an incidental rally by the Whole Popular Front Party. The campaign, I would say, is very calm in general. But since the political campaign is an ongoing process, we need to wait and observe the situation until the election day.”
Corien Jonker informed us about the structure of the Election Observation Mission she is heading: “The core team based in Baku is consists of eleven members. Moreover, we have 28 long-term observers deployed throughout the countryin 14 teams. They are analyzing the procedures in the pre-election period. For the election day on April 11, we will have 220 short-term observers from the OSCE participating states. In addition, we will be joined by 93 parliamentary observers from the Parliamentary Assembles of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. They will also be deployed throughout Azerbaijan.For this is a part of methodology and if we exclude some parts of it, we would not have a representative sample for the presidential election.
According to the ODIHR Head of Mission, they intend to meet with all presidential candidates: “Although our goal is to meet all eight candidates, because of Novruz holiday, sometimes it was not possible to reach everyone just yet. However, we will meet not only with all presidential candidates, political parties, but also with the elections administration, that is, the Central Elections Commission, Constituency Election Commissions, and some Precinct Election Commissions. Furthermore, we aim to meet with prominent members of the civil society, media, oppositional parties, courts, and the diplomatic community.”
“All these meetings are necessary for covering the elections. In addition, we need 360 degrees observation, in so that are be able to analyze election activities from different angles in order to have the whole picture,” the Head of Mission said.
Corien Jonker stated that as a Head of Mission, this is her seventh mission with the ODIHR. Before Azerbaijan, she headed ODIHR missions in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and twice in Kyrgyzstan.
“Before working with the ODIHR, I was a politician in my national parliament in the Netherlands, and I was also a member of the Council of Europe”, she added.
Regarding the differences and similarities of election observations in these countries, Corien Jonker said: “These countries are different in terms of political environment and political culture; therefore, indeed it is very difficult to compare them.”
“Over the years, ODIHR has established very strict way of working in standard procedures andhas established a methodology that we use in all our missions. By strictly following our methodology, we are confident that we can properly observe elections in Baku and in the regions. The next day after Election Day, we will publish the preliminary statement in which we will have a proper assessment and proper conclusions of the election period.”
Corien Jonker mentioned that the observation mission started on March 9 and will stay in the country till April 24 for “being able to observe whole spectrum of the elections.”