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Electoral transparency – why we need it and why we still don’t have it

 

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As we all know, the snap parliamentary elections have just taken place on the 9th-10th February 2020. Many had high hopes for it being “different”, more open, and more representative of what our people want. The large number of candidates itself pushed the younger generations to feel like their hopes might actually become reality despite the lack of transparency in all previous elections (parliamentary, municipal or presidential). It did not help that so many media outlets were discussing how anyone, national or not, could become an observer and ensure the transparency of the elections. After all, didn’t our dear President ask the dissolution of Parliament in order to modernize its legislative branch?

Yet once the results were out, it seems like no one expected the unchanging reality. The ruling New Azerbaijan Party yet again has majority with 69 seats out of 125. An exact 52% that will ensure that any laws proposed or pushed by the Aliyevs/Pashayevs are ratified. The rest of the seats were won by so-called “independents”, mainly loyal to the ruling party itself. Some media outlets have even speculated that the snap elections were simply a measure of precaution against opposition leaders, ensuring that the opposition would be unprepared for any real fight. Not that this matters much since the President has most of the powers and is no more restricted by a presidential mandate limit since 2009.

Be it national or international observers, many have reported abuse of power, lack of competition, multiple voting and difficulties to vote at polling stations. The OSCE and Council of Europe have both given low marks in terms of transparency. It becomes even worse once we take into account the low turnout level of only 47.81%, almost 8% less than in previous parliamentary elections of 2015.

Why is electoral transparency needed? The answer is simple. Transparency plays an important role in securing accountability and participation in elections, as well as building trust amongst one’s electorate by limiting corruption. All in all, transparency is an essential in democracy. We could argue that the electoral process was in fact transparent. The Elections Commission of Azerbaijan, as well as the Milli Majlis official website, both notified of any decisions made regarding the snap elections. Moreover, once the results were out, many media outlets shared them via their newspapers/online websites. The President himself shared his will to make these elections fair.

But transparency itself is not enough to make a change towards democracy and fair elections. Access to reliable information itself is an issue in Azerbaijan. This is without discussing the clear lack of will of the government to have actual independent parties in the ruling bodies of our country.

For the last two weeks, we have been seeing election results being declared null. Is this proof that something better is taking place? The answer is no. It doesn’t matter how many times Ilham Aliyev asks “What are transparent elections then?” because any so-called election organized by a corrupt government that has been acting like a monarchy for the last 20 years, will by definition not attain international democratic standards.

This article might sound like more of a rant, and it is. But we should not give up. After all, democracy didn’t come to France in one election, and Azerbaijan is no different.

Sources:

BEYNƏLXALQ SEÇKİ MONİTORİNQ MİSSİYASI Növbədənkənar Parlament Seçkiləri, 9 fevral 2020-ci il 10.02.2020-ci il, saat 09:00-da qüvvədə olan sürəti İLKIN MÜŞAHIDƏLƏR VƏ NƏTICƏLƏRƏ DAIR BƏYANAT. https://www.osce.org/az/odihr/elections/azerbaijan/445774?download=true

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