TODAY.AZ / Politics

Andreas Gross: "I cannot imagine what can happen to Azerbaijan if the falsifications will take place again during elections"

26 April 2005 [12:58] - TODAY.AZ
Day.Az News Agency interviewed the rapporteur of the Council of Europe's monitoring committee on Azerbaijan, Andreas Gross.
Mr. Gross, could you tell us about your recent visit? To what extend was it

I can tell you that during this autumn in Azerbaijan there is going to happen very important event – parliamentary elections that will set the farther destiny of your country. I know that these elections are of a big importance both for the government and for the opposition camp. It is undesirable however for these elections to turn into a sort of life or death clash.

Rivaling camps should consider the elections to be a normal democratic procedure with its results accepted by everyone involved. Every time there are elections held in Azerbaijan there is instability observed. We are very apprehensive of such moods that can lead to unpredictable serious consequences.

Our goal – and we put it to the president straight – is to avert the pernicious steps of those forces. Only a fool can repeat his own mistakes. We call government and opposition to avoid the mistakes made during the last elections. We call both sides to avoid violence or Azerbaijan can be a scene for another bloody drama. Neither people of Azerbaijan nor Europe needs that. However, falsification of elections is also a sort of violence over feelings of electorate that comes to the elections believing in just voting.

We need stable and firm Azerbaijan and stability can withstand based only on

I cannot imagine to myself what can happen to Azerbaijan if the falsifications will happen again during these elections. Probably European Council will simply break relationships with Azerbaijan. However, the President during our meeting promised that he would do everything for these elections to be democratic and transparent. At the end, it is as well important for him.

Is it possible to call democratic the present pre-election situation in Azerbaijan?

Honestly speaking, the situation does not look like as a pre-election situation at all. May be because there is plenty of time left until the elections take place – there is more than half of a year ahead. May be the political forces are not in a rush to start election campaign. In other words, everything is calm for right now. Nevertheless, I would call that a still before a storm. I came to this conclusion after meetings with representatives of different political parties. During all of these meetings, I felt some aggressiveness. And aggressiveness may burst out with the saddest consequences. In Azerbaijan, no one trusts each other. It is very pity that yet here did not start a proper dialog between authorities and opposition; it is a very important factor that might decrease mutual tensions. Authorities must provide freedom of gatherings and equal access to electronic Mass Media to different political forces. The opposition in Azerbaijan complains that authorities do not allow it to inform voters about its platforms. I consider these demands of the opposition justified. It is not possible to consider elections democratic if only one party gets all advantages – that is unfair! People should make their decision considering the full political spectrum.

However, is the President capable of providing the transparency to the elections?

Of course, it does not depend only on him. His team should help him with this. Nevertheless, as far as I heard it is not solid. However, during our meeting the President denied this idea calling it “conjectures” created by media. I have a strong feeling that the President is up for democratic elections. Moreover, he agreed that political struggle should not turn into a life or death clash.

Politics is a process that goes upward and downward, there are victories and defeats. Nobody needs to make a tragedy out of that. Being defeated it is necessary to start preparations for the next elections to be successful on them. This should become the backbone of the election system. With a flow of time, people will start trusting it – it just needs an effort. The state is responsible to organize elections so that defeated ones could not be suspicious of their justness.

However, we can only be sorry that such elections did not happen yet in Azerbaijan. It is possible to predict two scenarios of how the events will unfold either just and democratic elections or falsifications with not avoidable bloody conflict. I think that every citizen of Azerbaijan is interested in the implementation of the first scenario.

What do you think of member changes made in election commissions?

I think that there is indeed a need to change the ways of how election commissions are being formed. Political actors do not trust each other.

There is a need in such elections commissions that will set equilibrium between all political forces or there will be another burst of mutual accusations. Besides that, all NGOs should have a freedom of participation in the process of the elections monitoring. Sometimes, in Azerbaijan we witness unjustified interference of executive power authorities in the election process. Head of Central Elections Commission Mazahir Panakhov also noted that a number of legal norms create obstacles for CEC to struggle with such interference. It worries us a lot and we told about it to the President. Ilham Aliyev replied that he has proposals regarding the issue and promised to send them to us during next week. In order to hold democratic parliamentary elections it is necessary to make changes in the Election Code, renew members of election commissions and set them free from the control of the authorities.

What do you think, is the issue of political prisoners a closed case in Azerbaijan?

In any case, Azerbaijan has made some serious steps in this direction. The last of them was the recent act of pardon that we greeted with approval. However, it is early to say that the issue is completely solved. The alerting is that criminal record of many prisoners freed by this pardon did not banish and that does not allow them to participate as candidates in elections.

How do you appraise the appointment of the general director of Public TV?

It is a complicated question… Whichever opposition representative I have met was complaining with the appointment of Mr. Omarov on this position. Broadly speaking, they were emphasizing that society does not trust him and PTV in general. However, I have met with Mr. Omarov himself and with members of broadcast council of PTV. He promised me to do his best to guarantee the independence of PTV and its accessibility to all political forces in the country. He personally expressed a wish for this to take place before the parliamentary elections believing that it will raise the rating of the new TV channel. Let us see how sincere this person is. Let the PTV start its work – then we will be able to make judgments…

What did the representatives of state authorities tell you regarding the murder of Elmar Huseynov?

This is a tragic page in the history of Azerbaijan. This murder brought a serious downfall of your country’s image. Both the President and the heads of law enforcement institutions are interested in the solution of this crime. They informed me that deployed all assets to investigate the case. I think that Mr. Aliyev will do everything possible for this crime to be solved since he is interested in it more than anybody else is.

Is it possible that PACE will appoint a special rapporteur on this investigation as it was in the case with Georgi Gongadzhe?

I think it is possible. It just needs an initiative from at least one of PACE deputies. During a meeting with Mass Media representatives we were also asked to place such a proposal in PACE. We promised to think about it, but it would be better for this initiative to come from Azerbaijani parliamentarians.

What worries us the most is the fact that the investigation proceeds in secret from the society although heads of law enforcement institutions assured us that they are working day and night to solve the murder. I would like to add, that imprisonment of Haji Mamedov’s gang pleased and concerned us at the same time. The fact of existence of such criminal structures that are hardwired in state institutions is unthinkable in democratic countries.

(c) Day.Az News Agency


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