Thursday, October 17, 2013

Not just French Senators

As this blog pointed out, certain election monitors, namely a few French Senators were falling over themselves to announce to the world that the recent election in Azerbaijan was free, fair and in keeping with the best democratic traditions despite a few minor problems like results being published before anything even happened.

It seems that the Senators in question are not alone. The same opinion was voiced by the representatives of two Toy Parliamentary Institutions, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) of which Azerbaijan is a member and which we, according to some, must not leave under any circumstances.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) condemned the election, citing the lack of a level playing field, limitations on fundamental freedoms, intimidation of voters and candidates, a restrictive media environment and “significant problems ... throughout all stages of the election day processes.”

At the same time, the European Parliament (EP) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Pace) praised the election and said they observed a "free, fair and transparent" process around election day.
What could be the reason for this, asks Holly Ruthrauff of EUObserver.
Like other autocrats in the region and beyond, Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev, seeks a veneer of international legitimacy and calls in pseudo election observers who assess the election positively, regardless of its integrity.

Such observers may be motivated by various interests, political or economic, or even, reportedly, by gifts of Azerbaijan’s famous caviar.

This phenomenon has unfortunately become a typical part of elections in the region, as well as globally. The trend of internationals overlooking a blatantly undemocratic election to cast legitimacy on the incumbent winner is only accentuated in an oil-rich state like Azerbaijan.
But surely, she pleads, the EP and PACE are not fake election observers but real organizations devoted to the idea of democracy, freedom and transparency.
They regularly send delegations of elected parliamentarians to observe elections and have committed themselves to do so in a credible manner.

Both are signatories of the UN Declaration of Principles for International Election Observers, a document signed by 45 international observer groups expressly to avoid such situations.

The declaration requires observer groups to conduct comprehensive observation, taking into account the entire election process and placing election day into this context.

Indeed, it was the long-term findings of the ODIHR that the EP and Pace disavowed by issuing a separate statement, contrary to established practice.
So what caused this behaviour? Alas, we get no explanations merely hand-wringing. Dare I suggest that the words oil and caviare might be part of that explanation, at least as a starting point?

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