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The Azerbaijan “Elections”
October 15, 2003

The Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe's (IDEE) organized 188 election observers for the October 15, 2003 presidential elections in Azerbaijan. This monitoring mission, requested by the U.S. government, formed part of a larger group of observers monitoring under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In response to the OSCE/ODIHR Preliminary Report, the IDEE observers, who observed more than 1,000 voting precincts and Constituency Election Centers where votes were tabulated, collectively issued a "Votum Separatum," which expressed their outrage at the election fraud, intimidation and political repression they witnessed during their observation mission and their disagreement with the OSCE's mild preliminary report calling the elections "generally well administered." The following provides further information related to "elections" and IDEE's monitoring mission.

IDEE Press Release

Votum Separatum in English

Votum Separatum in Russian

Initial Report of the Election Headquarters of Isa Gambar

ODIHR Preliminary Report

U.S. State Department Press Release


The Azerbaijan “Elections”


For Immediate Release:    Contact: Eric Chenoweth or Irena Lasota
October 21, 2003                Tel.: 202-466-7105 / Email: [email protected]

“None of the Criteria for Evaluating an Electoral Process Were Met”

 One hundred and eighty-eight election observers from twelve countries in Central and Eastern Europe signed a common statement declaring the October 15th presidential elections a sham and called on Western governments, international organizations, and media to hear their testimonies of election fraud and intimidation and to undertake strong  and immediate measures to stop the political repressions  in Azerbaijan.

 The Observer Mission was organized by the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe at the request of the U.S. Government and formed part of the OSCE/ODIHR (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) mission made up of nearly 500 monitors. The IDEE group decided to issue a “votum separatum” or dissenting opinion, in response to the OSCE/ODIHR’s “Preliminary Report on the Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan,” which declared the elections “generally well administered in most polling stations” and highlighted “positive aspects” of the electoral process even as it included information that would clearly lead to the opposite conclusion

 The IDEE Observer Mission detailed widespread fraud and abuse, denial of voting rights to opposition supporters, police and official intimidation and harrassment, among other major violations of international election standards and the Azerbaijan electoral law. The IDEE Observer Mission cited especially a completely fraudulent process of vote tabulation in which the 124 Constituency Election Commissions simply input numbers onto blank or pencilled-in election protocols and accepted clearly made-up protocols signed only by government supporters. “Since none of the criteria for evaluating an electoral process were met,” the observers’ statement declares, “the presidential elections of October 15, 2003 in the Republic of Azerbaijan cannot be qualified as what in the practice of civilized nations  is called “elections.”

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The Azerbaijan “Elections”

of the
Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE) Observer Mission
from the
OSCE/ODHIR Preliminary Report About
the Presidential Elections of October 15, 2003 in the Republic of Azerbaijan

 The Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE) was asked by the United States Government (USG) to organize an observer mission for the October 15 presidential election in Azerbaijan. The mission, put “under the umbrella” of the OSCE/ODHIR, was composed of 188 monitors from Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and  Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States.

 These observers accounted for about one third of the total of the OSCE/ODHIR mission. Among them  were elected representatives of all levels, including the parliament, journalists, NGO activists, and election observation specialists. On October 15-16, these monitors had an opportunity to observe the  electoral process in all 124 constituencies of the Republic of Azerbaijan as well as close to 1,000 precincts.

 After familiarizing themselves with the OSCE/ODHIR preliminary report of October 16, 2003, all 188  observers from the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE) are  declaring a votum separatum, a  dissenting opinion. The IDEE observers are appealing to the United States Government, which made this  mission possible, to the European Commission and European Parliament, to governments, the media, and to the OSCE itself to hear their testimonies and examine the documentation they provided that was not included  in the OSCE/ODHIR preliminary report.

 We also call on the international community and the governments of democratic states to undertake strong  and immediate measures to stop the political repressions  in Azerbaijan, which started even before the  electoral process was over and has accelerated afterwards.

  The observers from countries of Central Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, which recently won democracy or are struggling toward it, are concerned that if the word “elections” is to retain its meaning, the events of October 15 in Azerbaijan must be described by a different term.
 Below is a summary of the IDEE’s mission conclusions.

 1. The voter registration lists were falsified. Many citizens present in Azerbaijan on election day were not on the lists, while many others living abroad — or sometimes deceased a long time ago — were.  Crowds of registered voters who could not find their names on the voting lists lined up at the courts beginning in the early morning attempting to have their voting rights restored, as is possible under the law, but only very few succeeded.  Many other voters who did not find their names on the voting lists did not go to courts and went home without being able to fulfill their constitutional right to participate in the elections.

 2. At polling stations, citizens were  generally prevented from freely expressing their will as citizens freely.  Police officers hovered closer to voting areas than the required distance and sometimes were even inside polling  stations. Inside there were other people not having the right to be present. In many polling stations, there was also continuous video recording of voters by  people who had no accreditation. Local observers often were not able to perform their duties since they were not allowed to observe the voting process and were prevented from observing the counting of ballots. IDEE observers recorded  instances of physical violence against local observers and members of electoral commissions with consultative voting rights (most of the time independents or opposition representatives) as well as throwing them out of the polling stations.

 There were instances when the officially accredited interpreters accompanying international observers  were threatened and intimidated.

 There were also attempts to threaten or bribe the voters, members of the  commission, representatives of the candidates, or observers. Most of the reports about the violations made  by the observers were ignored by the police as well as by ConEC (Constituency Election Commision) officials.

 3. The  election process was marked by planned and goal-oriented  falsifications. There were systematic violations of procedural laws, both in the opening and closing of the  polling stations and in the preparation for counting of votes. There were instances  when all the documents related to the election in the polling station were carried out from the room or the  building for long periods of time. There is observer documentation of voters coming to the polling station with ballots that were already placed in stamped envelopes with the upper left hand corner cut-off to show the first candidate for president on the list marked off [the government candidate Ilham Aliyev]. Blank stamped ballots with cut off corner were also circulated outside of  polling station. In some occasions, there was more than one voter in a voting cabin, more than one ballot issued to one person,  ballots issued to people not having  required documents or identification, and the creating of illegal “additional voters  lists.”  In some polling stations, seals from voting boxes were damaged or often outright taken off.

 4. The actions of the Constitutency Election Commissions (ConEcs) [where vote tabulations were supposed to be made] were characterized by a  number of direct violations of the election code of Republic of Azerbaijan. The results of the election from local polling stations were not openly declared or  read to all;  there was no voting of the ConEcs confirming or rejecting the submitted protocols from polling  station; the protocols from the polling stations were most of the times submitted to the ConEcs either as “drafts,” filled out in pencil (not pen), or even simply blank, no figures filled in at all, but having the signatures of the  members of the commission. The protocols submitted by the polling stations were corrected or sometimes were fully filled at the ConEc. Often, the  protocols from the polling stations were brought into the ConEcs by people who had no authority to do so or  the protocols were brought in without the ballots themselves. Very rarely were the election protocols — the actual results of the  voting at the precincts or constituencies — released for public view on time. In many cases, the international observers  were refused copies of the voting protocols both at the precincts and in the ConEcs. The local observers and the  representatives of the presidential candidates were as a rule refused the protocols.

 Only rarely could international observers go inside the room where information about the results of the  election in the PEC was inserted into the computers and transferred to the CEC. All the local observers were  deprived of such an opportunity.

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 These and other violations confirmed by IDEE’s observers in all 124 constituencies brought the observers to  the following conclusions regarding the presidential elections in Azerbaijan on October 15, 2003:

 1. The elections were not free. The freedom of expression of the will of citizens of Azerbaijan was severely restricted;

 2. The elections were not equal. A significant part of Azerbaijani citizens were deprived of their right to vote;

 3. The elections were not just, which was proven by observed acts of manipulations and
straightforward falsifications;

 4. The elections were not transparent, since the legal right to observe the process of voting and of counting and tabulating votes was violated in most all observed instances.

 The elections — if called as such — were conducted with major violations of the laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan not to mention the gross violation of international standards.

 In this situation, since none of the criteria for evaluating an electoral process were met, the observers of IDEE’s mission conclude that the presidential elections of October 15, 2003 in the Republic of Azerbaijan cannot be qualified as what in the practice of civilized nations  is called “elections.”

Signed: Baku, October 18, 2003
188 Members of the IDEE Observer Mission
to the Presidential Elections of the Republic of Azerbaijan

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The Azerbaijan “Elections”


In difference from the October 1993 and October 1998 presidential elections, almost none of the serious political forces remained outside of the election process and boycotted the elections at the election campaign of the October 15th 2003 presidential elections of Azerbaijan Republic. It was related with ending the authoritarian stage that related with the name of Heidar Aliev with Azerbaijan’s acceptation to the Council of Europe and for other reasons with the hopes for formalization of the government that reflects the will of nation through holding democratic elections.

Pre-Election Environment

On the eve of election campaign there were created obstacles to free activity of opposition parties, opposition leaders were arrested with various pretexts in many regions (Khachmaz, Zagatala). The right of free assembly of organizations have been violated. The appeals of the opposition parties to local executive powers for holding rallies and demonstrations in the regions of the republic (Sabirabad, Lankaran, Imishli, Beylagan, Zagatala, Agdash, etc.) have been rejected without any reasons against the law “On the freedom of free assembly”.

Political parties were not given an opportunity to hold their organizational meetings by police interference (for example, Gusar region). A small meeting held at the Musavat’s office in Guba region was destroyed by the police interference; participants were taken to a police department, and taken their testimonies.

There has not been separated relevant places in the regions of the republic, as well as districts of Baku for holding rallies, meetings, and other mass ceremonies against the law “On the freedom of free assembly”.

Opposition parties faced with pressures and intimidation. A large group of people attacked on the office of the Musavat Party and destroyed the property of the “Yeni Musavat” newspaper, which situated there, injured the journalists. Detained attackers were handed in the Sabail Police department, but were immediately released and remained unpunished.

Not opening a public TV, being 5 TV channels functioning in the country under the government’s control both from political and economic side, made impossible the creation of objective information sphere in the country. Free activity of opposition leaders has been created obstacles on the eve of elections, drivers and bodyguards of Isa Gambar have been arrested. Other oppositional candidates Etibar Mammadov and Ali Karimli faced with such problems, too.

Election law

Adoption of a new Election Code and working out the procedures of election process in details in that code should be generally, appreciated as a positive case. But the shortcomings concerning the rule of formalizing election commissions and organizing observation have not been prevented regardless of insistence of local political and public organizations, as well as international organizations. As a result, local public organizations have been deprived of the opportunity to observe the election, all the election commissions including the Central Election Commission (CEC) were under the government control with the 2/3 majority of votes. The words of the parliament speaker Murtuz Alasgerov, deputy chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party, “don’t worry, all the commissions are under our control” in front of MPs at the Milli Mejlis [parliament] proved itself, the most popular polls result was 10 comparison to 5 in principal issues at the CEC sessions, decisions were adopted being against the will of the opposition.

The results of forming CEC with such principle showed itself especially during the registration of presidential candidates. Political figures having serious political electorate- the candidacy of Rasul Guliyev, Ayaz Mutallibov, as well as Eldar Namazov has not been registered according to political opinions of the members forming the majority at the CEC, but not on legal bases.

Remaining local public organizations outside of the observation process made impossible the realization of the program of parallel vote tabulation.

Election Campaign

The principle of equal-right campaign possibilities has been roughly violated. 5 TV channels functioning in the country were dealing with the propaganda of the government’s candidate, campaign against the opposition, insult, and blackmail during the entire election campaign.

A free of charge campaign period has been identified totally 60 minutes for the entire election campaign through the State-owned Broadcasting Company which is 8 times (4,800 minutes) fewer than the time separated at the election in 1998, before Azerbaijan’s acceptation to the Council of Europe.

Private TV channels defined a price for demonstrating advertising roller and programs many times higher than it was at the 2000 parliamentary elections. However, despite of insisting demands of the opposition, at the same time this issue drew the attention of international organizations, either state or private TV channels (Space, Sumgait TV, etc.) except ANS broadcasting company, have refused from concluding a contract for the demonstration of advertising rollers and programs by strictly violating the claims of the Election Code and international law.

According to the demands of the Election Code, TV channels and other companies, enterprises, must define a single price for preparing propaganda and agitation materials [Article 81.6]. If there is held a financial report with the presented prices (for advertising rollers 12 USD per second, for programs 1,000 USD per minute, for special times 1,500 USD), it will be confirmed that broadcasting the propaganda of a government candidate at the TV channels only during the last week of the election campaign was in the amount of millions of US dollars. However, according to the Election Code, each candidate has right to spend in the amount of 5.5 milliard mantas, approximately 1.1 million US dollars during the election campaign. [Article 191.1]

There was not marked the circulation on the agitation materials of the government candidates against the demands of the law [Article 87.3], neither CEC, nor the ruling party gave importance to the opposition’s statement about it many times.

There were put agitation materials of a government candidate on the light boards and billboards in all cities and regions of the republic, but opposition candidates were not created such an opportunity.

There were created serious obstacles to the meetings of the opposition leaders with their electorate during the campaign. In most cases police has forcefully prevented holding meetings with the voters in the squares regarded at the appeals. On September 21 voters coming to a meeting with Isa Gambar in front of the Sevil Theater in Yasamal and Tabriz Theater in Nizami districts were brutally beaten by the police and illegal civil troops being under police control. Tens of people were hardly injured in the action.

On October 2, police and other civil persons attacked on the voters that gathered to a meeting with other opposition representatives Etibar Mammadov and Ali Karimli in Saatli region, as a result, tens of voters were seriously injured.

Obstacles with violence on the meetings of opposition candidates, as well as Isa Gambar with the voters happened in Lankaran, Sabirabad, Ali-Bayramli, Davachi, Zagatala, Gazakh, and other regions, too.

Despite of all the obstacles, violence tens of thousands of people gathered to the meetings of Isa Gambar with the voters in various regions of the republic. Meetings held in Sumgait and Ali-Bayramli towns demonstrated that the favorite of the election campaign was Isa Gambar despite of the police pressures and violence. Over 100 thousand people took part in each meetings held in front of the Galaba square of Baku on September 7th and October 12th. Coming 100 thousands of people to a meeting with a presidential candidate should be estimated a sign of people’s hope to a possibility of preventing falsification of the election results.

Regardless of the demands of the Election Code and international law, administrative resource took active part as a defender of the government’s candidate in the election campaign and that case has played a decisive role in the fate of the elections.

Executive power structures, ministries, police, justice structures have not only illegally propagated government’s candidate, at the same time, realized major organizational works themselves in his election campaign. Propaganda materials of the government’s candidate placed on the buildings of the state offices during the entire election campaign, even sometimes held the agitation of the government’s candidate with special sound boosters from the buildings of the state offices (for example, Ministry of Communication).

The items [Item 88.4.3 and 88.4.4] of the Election Code that prohibit giving gifts to voters, making services on terms have been strictly and many times illegally violated.

Almost in all the towns and regions of Azerbaijan, in some towns of Turkey and Russia were organized concerts free of charge, voters were distributed gifts (TV-sets, tractors, etc.) by the government’s candidate, and all of these were shown by the TV channels.

Control on the financial amount spent for concerts and gifts were impossible.

Voters’ Lists

After the dislocation of the election districts and revealing the number of voters that will poll in those districts, it was turned out that voter’s lists have been seriously changed and hundreds of thousands of voters remained outside of the election process. Thus, the number of voters was seriously misrepresented in different election districts being against the official reports of the State Committee of Statistics, demographic law. For example, while 70 percent of Sharur region’s population is marked as voters, only 35 percent of Fizuli region’s population, nearly 40 percent of Sumgait’s population is marked as being in the age of voter which was made with the purpose of creating condition to voters polling in several stations on the election day and not including the opposition’s electorate to the voters’ lists.

CEC was indifferent to the suggestions and initiatives of the opposition in connection with the solution of this problem. As a result, hard prognoses approved, names of tens of thousands of voters were not included in the voter’s lists, in most cases, those voters were send a notification and assured, and they even did not go to check whether their names are in the voter’s lists or not.

Numerous “voters’ groups” organized by the authorities from all part of the republic were taken from a station to a station by bus and other transports by the representatives of the executive powers and voted several times.

Housing and Communal offices held questioning in the houses for carrying out that “operation” and determined the electorate of the opposition. It is not by chance that the absolute majority of voters whose names were not marked at the voter’s lists were the opposition’s electorate including the high leadership of the Musavat Party.

Voters’ lists were revealed only 3 weeks before elections, but not 65 days against the Article 48.1 of the Election Code that seriously reduced the term for voters putting their names in the lists.

First time in the election history of Azerbaijan voters appealed to courts for including their names in the voter’s lists on the election day. Thousands of people gathered in front the court buildings in all the regions of the republic on the election day. According to the Election Code, most of the courts that must resolve this problem in an hour were closed on the election day, delayed on purpose or made bureaucracy as a result of which the voter right of a small part of voters appealed to the courts have been restored.

Keeping hundreds of thousands of voters outside of the election process on purpose seriously put under doubt being the October 15th 2003 presidential elections of Azerbaijan Republic not only fair, but also even free.

Election Day

There were formed 125 election districts and 5,110 election stations in the territory of the republic in accordance to the Election Code. Later the number of stations was shown 5,121 and then 5,136. Commission members appointed by the Musavat Party functioned in more than 30% of election districts and more than 25% election stations. Adopting a decision on supporting the candidacy of Isa Gambar by the Azerbaijan Democrat Party that has a right of representation at the commissions has resulted with increasing twice the number of commission members representing Isa Gambar at the commissions.

In addition, Isa Gambar has used of his right to appoint a commission member having a right of consulting vote. Number of persons defined as an observer at the election commissions by the Musavat Party was over 5,000. Besides, a number of independent observers (over 5,000) corporated with the Central Election Headquarter of Isa Gambar on the election day. Over thousand international observers observed the elections.

Observers were not let in the election stations in some stations on the election day. The situation at the military units, closed enterprises, prisons, and hospitals was more terrible, there were refused to let not only observers, even commission members in those places. Isa Gambar’s lawyer Mammad Zeynalov was not allow in the 33rd station of the 33rd election district. Commission members were organized wiuth the colleagues of embassies and diplomatic corpuses at the election stations in foreign countries against the Election Code.

Bulletins were counted without the participation of observers in most election stations on the election day.

There were held video-shots in many election stations. Voters were pressured in front of the stations, they were told that will know whom they vote, and those did not vote for a government candidate will be tortured.

Special unknown troops threatened opposition’s commission members, observers in most election stations, interfered in the election process, in some cases used violence against the commission members, observers, and voters.

Bulletins prepared beforehand for the government’s candidate were massively dropped into the ballot boxes. Hundreds of election bulletins prepared beforehand for the government’s candidate were taken by the Musavat’s observers and demonstrated to media representatives and international observers. After the completion of the elections, opposition’s commission members and observers were forcefully taken away from the election stations in many regions of the republic [Ganja, Nakhchivan, Agjabedi, Balakan, Barda, Jalilabad, and Nizami, Azizbayov, Khatai districts of Baku], were not allown them to participate in the process of vote tabulation. Commission members and observers protesting that faced with physical pressures of the police and unknown troops acting together with the police. In many regions [Jalilabad, Yardimli, Massalli, Lerik] the electricity was cut.

Copy of election protocols about the results of elections held only in 100 stations out of 5,110 election stations were given to the observers.

There was refused giving copies of protocols to opposition’s observers and media representatives nearly at 98% of election stations, and who came out with such claims was beaten, insulted, or arrested. Numerous commission members and observers representing the opposition were insulted, beaten, and arrested on the election day.

The main copy of the protocols have been published abroad with the insistence of the international organization in order to prevent falsification and later changing the election protocols, presented to each election station and election district in three copies being only one number.

The principle of uninterval was broken during the vote tabulation in all the 5,110 election stations.

These protocols were not filled in after the completion of the election process with the participation of the opposition’s commission members, observers, as well as international observers in any of 124 election districts of 5,110 election stations (!).

In most cases, protocols of the divisional election commissions were filled in the police stations.

As a rule, protocols were written in rough copy variant at the station and taken to the divisional election commissions, and here were copied to the main protocols after having been falsified there. Just for that reason, there appeared differences between a few protocols taken by the observers and those of presented to the district election commissions.

Copies of protocols reflecting the final results counted on the district were presented to the observers, as well as international observers in none of the 125 election districts.

Military forces were taken to some places of Baku on the Election Day, headquarter of the Musavat Party was surrounded by the police, special service troops, and military units armed with machine-guns. Special service troops dressed in various clothes insulted and used violence on the people being near the headquarter of the Musavat Party in the presence of representatives of international organizations and international media outlets. Police, special service agencies, and unknown persons in civil forms attacked on the hundreds of people gathered in front of the Musavat’s office in order to get information about the election result, seriously injured hundreds of people, demonstrated vandalism in the presence of international observers, representatives of the leading information agencies of the world, TV channels. Government representatives not satisfied with beating the people broke windows of the Musavat’s office and cars being in front of the office and made them useless. Hundreds of people, as well as Musavat’s activists, journalists, and foreign journalists faced with violence during the incidents.

Later leadership of the Ministry Interior demanded on the Musavat’s members to leave the headquarter.

Mass arrest of the heads of territorial election headquarters, election commission members, and observers, restricting people’s coming to the Musavat’s office where the party’s Central Election Headquarter situated, arresting people coming or leaving the headquarter, have caused destruction the activity of Isa Gambar’s Central Election Headquarter, continuing its activity, in fact, half-legal conditions.

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For more information contact:
Irena Lasota or Eric Chenoweth, IDEE Co-directors, at [email protected] 

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