Local journalists and election observers have reported being attacked as Azerbaijan’s snap parliamentary elections get underway today. There have also been widespread reports of other serious violations including ballot-box stuffing and carousel voting.
The election is being held after the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, which had a strong majority in parliament already, announced in late November they intended to dissolve parliament and call an election to aid the ‘reforms led by President Ilham Aliev’.
Others have speculated the move is meant to strengthen the position of President Aliyev’s wife, Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva.
By 12:00, the Central Election Committee (CEC) announced that turnout was 27%, up 1% from the same time during the previous parliamentary elections in 2015. Local observer group the Institute for Democratic Initiatives disputed the 2015 figure, putting it at only 12%.
Journalists and observers in several polling stations in the capital Baku as well as in the southern city of Lankaran reported being physically prevented from filming.
A journalist filming at a polling station in Surakhani District of Baku was attacked by a man in civilian clothes who asked her not to film.
Journalist Fatime Movlamli said that members of the Surakhani District commission prevented her from filming despite having press accreditation.
In Lankaran, a local observer said he was slapped in his face by a member of the local election commission.
Meydan TV journalist Habib Muntazir reported two cases of female observers being attacked at polling stations — in the village of Shuruk in the southern Lankaran Municipality and in the Mashtagha District of Baku.
An observer in the Nasimi District of Baku was physically prevented from filming by commission members, who told him that only journalists were able to film.
Carousel and multiple voting
The elections are being observed by 358 OSCE observers from 41 countries.
Artur Gerasimov, the head of the mission, told journalists that they could not release details of their observations yet, but that the delegation ‘was not subjected to any pressure. We are being provided with all the necessary conditions for proper observation’, he said.
Local observers, however, have already reported multiple serious electoral violations.
In the village of Shuruk, Lankaran Municipality, several people were filmed being accompanied into the voting booth.
A member of the electoral commission in the Yasamal constituency of Baku was filmed admitting that she was a member of the ruling New Azerbaijan party, a violation of the law.
The same thing happened in the Binagadi constituency of Baku, where a commission member admitted also being a member of the Civil Solidarity party.
In Mingachevir observers photographed a man stuffing a ballot box with several ballots. The CEC told news agency Turan in response that this was ‘impossible’.
Several police officers entered a polling station in Imishli.
In Gazakh, a representative of a candidate, was not allowed to film the voting process in a polling station that had no electricity.
Non-transparent ballot boxes were recorded at various polling stations. One was in the Sabayil constituency of Baku. Faraj Karimli, the candidate from the opposition Musavat party for this constituency, also reported not-transparent ballot boxes, as well as a hole for ballots that was too wide.
Mehman Huseynov, a prominent blogger and candidate for the election, got into a heated argument with commission members over what he said was disrespect shown to him as a candidate.
Opposition observers report violations
The opposition Musavat party has reported several violations against their members.
Two observers from the party, Rovshan Mammadov and Tural Gurbanov, were prevented from entering polling stations in Jalilabad Municipality despite showing their observer accreditation.
The party also said that in Jalilabad, the head of the village of Shilavang administration was present at a polling station managing members of the commission and coordinating voters.
The party reported that at 8:30, 30 mins after the polls opened, ballot boxes in one polling station in the City of Saatli were already half-full.
In the Binagadi constituency of Baku, Musavat observers were moved away from where ballots were issued.
In the Nizami constituency of Baku, the part reported nine people were allowed to enter the polling station without checking their fingerprints for colourless ink.
More to follow…