Analysis 16:20 16/10/2013

Andreas Gross: Azerbaijan with regressing democracy is patient placed in reanimation ward at Council of Europe

Andreas Gross MP, former Rapporteur of PACE on Azerbaijan, was a PACE monitor at the presidential election on October 9 at Gedabak area. He shared his observations with radio "Liberty."

Gross told that he witnessed several violations in remote, small villages of Azerbaijan: ballot box stuffing, voting process intervention, exploitation of administrative resources, etc. "I watched the vote count toll 10 o’clock, but I was not allowed to participate in the process, especially to check whom the votes in the ballots are given for. I could not figure out where the three extra ballots came from. However, the violations registered by me did not change the situation: the incumbent president received 93% of the vote," the MEP says.

As the former rapporteur on Azerbaijan notes, all the observations will be discussed at PACE Bureau during its meeting in Vienna and Paris in November. He hoped that during the discussion of the report on Azerbaijan in 2014 the situation occurred during the election will also be taken into account.

"In 2000, I was an observer in Sumgait. Early in the morning, an hour before the opening of the polling station, 100 ballots in favor of the "Yeni Azerbaijan" party were found in a safe. I, as head of the OSCE and PACE delegation, assured President Heydar Aliyev that it was unacceptable. After that, he decided to hold by-elections in 7 polls. It was a requirement for Azerbaijan’s membership to the Council of Europe. In 2003, I was watching the elections in Ganja. Until midnight, together with my Finnish colleague, we were watching the vote count, after which the head of the commission confessed: "Mr. Gross was here all the time; we could not have falsified anything." There Ilham Aliyev received 50% of the vote," Andreas Gross told.

According to the MEP, in Ganja, in 2003, he could see the presence of active and industrious opposition against the background of limited freedoms, while today the Azerbaijani society lacks that energy. The opposition is tired of the repressions and migrates. Those gathering signatures for opposition candidates are arrested and their family members are intimidated.

"I and many others have emphasized before that there is no tangible progress on the issue of pluralism, freedom, open discussions, real public debates. This is not the first time that the OSCE and PACE reports differ. Only this time, the OSCE acted more openly, honestly and in good conscience. After all, their observations are based on numerous and long-term observations through the whole country," said Gross.

Member of PACE observers’ delegation also disagreed with the opinion of R. Walter, the head of delegation, who said that the elections in Azerbaijan were free, transparent and fair. "He only spoke about the elections day. If you analyze his statement, you will see that it fundamentally contradicts to all the elements of the OSCE Mission statement," Gross said, and explained that the OSCE had more extensive and serious base, and that base is not being ready by the time when the deputies publish their view points based only on the Election Day.

"We have been thinking about this problem long ago and we will continue the discussion. If we continue working apart from each other, it would only serve the anti-democratic, oligarchic interests. It would not contribute to the progress of the democratic processes. Today, Azerbaijan experience a setback in democracy issues," Andreas Gross notes.

PACE representative noted that many people foresaw such a result for the elections in advance, and the presidency of Azerbaijan at the Council of Europe is not related to the democratic achievements, but only to the Latin alphabet, by which Azerbaijan follows Austria, which will take the presidency from Armenia. "Of course, when the leader of football championship loses all the matches, it causes confusion and gives rise to questions just like Azerbaijan fails in the Council of Europe in the human rights and democracy championship. I understand that the Council of Europe is not the Champions League, and is not a democracy and human rights school. It is a hospital with different patients in it and Azerbaijan which needs urgent treatment, is placed in reanimation department," noted Andreas Gross.

According to him, in countries where oil and gas have a long history, while democracy does not, the possible development is limited. "In Azerbaijan, the democracy process is particularly difficult, because with a few exceptions, the European governments are trying to ensure energy security without thinking of democratic issues. They repeat the mistakes of Egypt, Tunisia and Syria. The shortcomings of dictators in these countries were forgiven, for the sake of short-term benefits. As a result, the reputation and values of the West today are endangered. However, I am confident that the changes will be by the initiative of the Azerbaijani society. As the failure, contradictions and severity of the regime are so obvious today that it will not last long," says the ex-reporter on Azerbaijan.

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